Nova Scotia Justice Minister Jamie Muir said Tuesday the province is refusing to prosecute people who do not register their rifles or shotguns.
Mr. Muir said it will be up to Ottawa to prosecute.
"People who use weapons dangerously, or to commit a crime, will still face the full extent of the law," Mr. Muir said in a news release. "But it makes no sense to clog up the courts with procedural matters around long-gun registrations.
The Justice Minister said the federal gun registry "has been flawed from the start" and law-abiding Nova Scotians "who use their guns for hunting or range practice shouldn't have to pay the price."
The federal Firearms Act and the Criminal Code state that anyone possessing a firearm, as defined in section 2 of the Code, must hold a valid firearms registration certificate.
Mr. Muir said it is generally not in the public interest to enforce the registration provisions for long guns that are not restricted or prohibited. Exceptions could be made if offenders have a history of firearm-related offences, or if they blatantly disregard police warnings.
"We believe the public is served best when our prosecution service focuses on serious criminal matters," he added.
If police do lay charges, he said, the province will refer the cases to federal prosecutors, who will have to decide whether to proceed through the courts.
"We believe the public is served best when our prosecution service focuses on serious criminal matters," Mr. Muir said.
Solicitor-General Wayne Easter defended the national gun-registry program.
"It was never [the] intention of the legislation to criminalize legitimate gun owners. It is our intent to have them register under the system so that we can have safer communities and safer streets," Mr. Easter said following Tuesday's cabinet meeting.
""It's my job to see the law is upheld," he added, saying that the RCMP will ensure this is done.
But he said it is the province's duty to prosecute under these laws.
The Auditor-General has said the national gun-registry program could end up costing more than $1-billion by 2005 rather than the net $2-million over 10 years projected when it was established in 1995.
The Liberals have come under frequent opposition attacks over the over the registry, and many Canadians — mainly in rural areas — have been strongly opposed.
Manitoba is already on record as saying it will not co-operate with the federal government in prosecuting anyone who fails to register long guns. Alberta will act under the Criminal Code but is advising police to use discretion and lay charges only under the Firearms Act, which it will not prosecute.
Nova Scotia is one of eight provinces that have called for the suspension of the gun registry.
Gun owners who are not registered by July 1 face the threat of legal action.