Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says owners of long guns will have another year to renew expired licenses without having to worry about being slapped with charges of unlawful firearms possession.

"We make this amnesty available for those who wish to register," Toews said at a Winnipeg news conference Friday morning. "But our ultimate goal is in fact the elimination of the long-gun registry."

The extension covers licenses and registration certificates for "long arms, such as shotguns and hunting rifles," Toews told CTV's Power Play following the announcement.

A statement from the public safety ministry says fees to renew firearms licenses will also be waived for a year.

"We're giving people an opportunity to bring themselves into compliance with the law," Toews said. "We feel that the RCMP and other police forces have better things to do than to harass hunters and trappers and farmers for not registering their long guns."

The minister reiterated that Stephen Harper's Conservative government remains opposed to the long-gun registry and intends to support a private members bill that would abolish it.

"We believe that it is a waste of tax payers' money," Towes said of the registry. "It is a tax on these farmers, hunters and trappers that is not an appropriate tax."

"It's the criminals that are the problem. There's other ways of addressing that," he added, citing mandatory sentences for the illegal use of firearms.

Toews made the extension announcement a day after RCMP commissioner Bill Sweeney endorsed the gun registry as a way to protect the Mounties from danger.

"I believe that there's compelling evidence that the registry promotes officer and public safety," Sweeney told the Commons public safety committee. "That's a personal opinion."

Supt. Greg Getty, who leads the Toronto police guns and gangs task force, also endorsed the registry on Friday.

"I personally support it without question, as does the Toronto Police Service as do… all of the Canadian chiefs through the CACP (Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police), as well as the Canadian Police Association and the Toronto Police Association," he said.

"The Toronto Police Service alone checks the registry hundreds of times a day in circumstances where we're attending at addresses where there's domestic conflicts," Getty said. "It's not only a matter of officer safety to have that information prior to attending, but also a matter of community safety."

Long guns are used in a quarter of domestic homicides in Canada, Getty said, and most Canadian officers killed in the line of duty were shot with long guns.

"The reality is there's much confusion in regards to the long-gun registry because of the continuing amnesties that just keep getting cycled through government," Getty said.

A private members bill, sponsored by Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner, proposes dismantling the long-gun registry. The bill has passed second reading and will be revised by a Commons committee next.

The registry has drawn controversy since its creation by the Liberals in the 1990s.

Critics have called the registry an unwarranted invasion into the lives of law-abiding gun owners. Proponents have hailed it as a valuable source of information for police.

With files from The Canadian Press