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DAYTONA BEACH - Trying to catch a serial killer, Daytona Beach police have asked gun shops in the region to provide the names, addresses and phone numbers of people who bought .40-caliber Smith & Wesson Sigma series pistols in 2004 or 2005.

Gun advocates are blasting the inquiry, saying collecting such information is illegal in Florida.

Daytona Beach police Chief Michael J. Chitwood sent the requests to gun shops across Central Florida.

Police say tests show the same weapon killed three prostitutes, and possibly another woman between 2004 and 2008. It's the newest lead in the stalled six-year investigation.

The problem is that Florida law prohibits law enforcement or other government agencies from requesting and compiling personal information of gun buyers.

Gun advocates, such as those at the National Rifle Association, are enraged.

"What are they trying to do? Show up on someone's doorstep and ask to see their gun?" asked Marion Hammer, an NRA lobbyist in Tallahassee. "This is exactly what the law was intended to stop. They [police] need to read the law."

It was unclear how many shops Chitwood sent the letters to or how recipients responded. He would not comment on the requests.

Scott Buckwald, co-owner of Buck's Gun Rack in Daytona Beach, said the gun police think is linked to the four slayings is popular for personal protection and target practice.

Buckwald said he received the request from Chitwood in 2009 and allowed investigators to review his records because it was not a "fishing expedition."

"For the most part, I'm going to always help law enforcement if they are working on a case and have specific requests. My records are open to them," Buckwald said. "But I do think they are looking for a needle in a haystack."