"Useless" is not a difficult word, but it's worthwhile sometimes to
check a dictionary even for the most common ones. For example, the
Encarta Dictionary -- that's the online newbie of lexicography --
defines "useless" as "having no beneficial use, incapable of functioning
Merriam Webster is terse. It just says, "ineffectual."
The American Heritage says of useless, "incapable of functioning or
assisting." That's a good one.
The Shorter Oxford is economical and brutal. It says useless means
"having no purpose."
I was peering into all of these semantic windows just for the purpose of
making sure that when I said the federal gun registry -- cost close to
$2 billion -- was useless, that I was on the right track. I think we
are. There have been 69 murders in Toronto over this year. Many worthy,
innocent people have tasted the deepest grief. The killings have
profoundly disturbed, agitated, and alarmed the communities where they
have occurred. The most recent murder was of an 18-year-old boy outside
a church attending the funeral of a 17-year-old boy who was himself
murdered the week before. This brazen blasphemous horror has appalled
everyone. It has shaken Toronto to the core.
In none of these killings has the gun registry been of the slightest
assistance. It has been ineffectual, of no beneficial use, incapable of
assistance. This useless pretence of a policy has answered no valuable
purpose. I bring this up in this particularly bleak context not
primarily to take a smack at the gun registry, though it deserves every
smack it gets, but to point out this further consideration: That
cosmetic legislation, legislation designed to make people feel good, has
a price beyond the $2 billion sign. Such legislation always amounts to a
pretence and an evasion.
It was always known that if there was a problem with inner-city crime,
gangs, and guns, the response had to be one that dealt with inner cities
and with the gangs and their guns. And that meant confronting some of
the most delicate issues, mixing race, poverty, police relations with
black communities, drugs, and sheer wilful thuggery on the part of some
-- issues that are volatile, not susceptible to a quick fix, and
barricaded by a whole set of topics most politicians would prefer not to
have to deal with. Throwing up a national gun registry as an answer,
even a partial one, to these problems, was a fake response, allowed some
civic leaders and interest groups to pose for the cameras, and give a
vague impression that the real problems in all their complexity were
being addressed. They weren't.
Gun murders in Toronto, and particularly within some areas of Toronto's
black community, are not, and never were, primarily a licensing and
registration dilemma. Nor are they, by the by, a cross-border smuggling
problem or a gun manufacturers' problem. Gun murder in this city is a
Toronto problem, it is a gang problem, and it is a problem of relations
between the police and portions of the black community. The wretched gun
registry has been absolutely useless in assisting police in finding the
villains who have been killing people.
Well, the homicide rate in Toronto this year is partially the price
being paid for this charade, and a most grievous illustration of the
cost that evasion, purchased by feel-good legislation, eventually
extracts a price inestimably higher than the $2 billion that useless
registry has cost so far. For The National, I'm Rex Murphy.
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