A Post on the Recent Mass Shootings

Buffalo. Laguna Woods. Uvalde. Tulsa. The recent mass shootings I’ve heard about on the news over the past few weeks have been…a lot. And I know I am far from the only person who feels this way.

What simultaneously angers, upsets, and grieves me is the fact that some of our politicians are absolutely tone-deaf to all of this. Just days after a mass shooting in Texas, some top politicians  went to a convention for the National Rifle Association (NRA)—the entity arguably most responsible for the fact that our country does little to nothing after every single mass shooting—in, of all places, Texas.

We ask ourselves why America is the only country that keeps on having these mass shootings. There are many theories, but I think a part of it may be because too many of our politicians refuse to do anything of substance after the mass shootings. Other countries have taken significant measures after mass shootings, and in at least one of those cases (Australia) and arguably another of those cases (the United Kingdom), those measures were effective in curbing gun violence.[1] And then in a third such case (New Zealand), it is simply too early to tell.

So if we know that there are other countries that have successfully made attempts to reduce gun violence, then why can’t we have the same in the United States? I think a part of it is because too many politicians at the national level don’t have the courage to break ranks with the NRA and its supporters in order to do anything of substance. And because of that, it seems like the votes likely aren’t there for substantive gun control.

But even if the votes for needed gun control measures were there in Congress, the current Supreme Court seems to have an appetite for, if anything, expanding gun rights through a rather expansive view of what the Second Amendment (the amendment used when it comes to gun rights) means.[2]

So what should be done?

The first thing I will suggest may be extremely controversial, but if the courts are going to interpret the Second Amendment in ways that will keep states or the federal government from making any gun control measures stick—even ones that have worked in other countries—we need to repeal the Second Amendment. If the way we use the Second Amendment is as an excuse to do nothing about who owns a gun, or as a means of striking down any gun control laws, even in the wake of mass shootings, it’s time to repeal the amendment that provides this excuse.[3]

Now, just to be clear, if the Second Amendment were to be repealed (and I would wager that I have a better chance of becoming a billionaire than I do of seeing a repeal of the Second Amendment), this doesn’t mean that nobody will be able to own a gun. Instead, what it means is that, as with many other things in life that require registrations and licenses, there are responsibilities that one might be required to meet in order to become a gun owner. Some of the responsibilities that should become a part of gun control legislation should be modeled off of what Australia—a country with a significant hunting culture, I might add—did after its most recent mass shooting decades ago:

  • Extensive licensing and registration processes
  • A 28-day waiting period for firearm sales
  • A severe restriction or even a ban on fully automatic or semi-automatic weapons
  • A federal gun buyback program to help people give back guns in a responsible way

I recognize that some of what I am suggesting is not only controversial, but perhaps politically untenable, for many politicians right now—hence why I’m not hearing my suggestion for repealing the Second Amendment coming even come from many liberals. But honestly, given the illness of mass shootings that this country is going through right now, I think everything—and I mean everything—needs to be on the table. And that includes things that may be politically untenable to even some gun control advocates.


[1] https://spectrumnews1.com/ky/louisville/news/2022/05/25/mass-shooting-uvalde-dunblane-port-arthur-gun-control

[2] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/supreme-court-verge-expanding-second-amendment-gun-rights

[3] A constitutional amendment can be repealed and was repealed once before. Namely, the 18th Amendment (having to do with alcohol prohibition) was repealed by the 21st Amendment.

Coronavirus Can Feel Like a Stomach Flu…And Media Often Doesn’t Talk About It

A couple of weeks ago, I had what felt like a long-lasting stomach flu. The rest of my family, around the same general time period, also came down with what felt like the same long-lasting stomach flu.

Thankfully, it likely was a stomach flu, or perhaps a norovirus. I say this because on both rapid tests and PCR tests, my younger brother and I both tested negative for COVID.

Yet, along the way with these stomach bugs, my family learned from our family pharmacist that a lot of people who feel like they have stomach flus actually have the Coronavirus. This is something that a lot of news media doesn’t seem to be covering, so I want to: a) highlight how COVID right now can resemble a stomach flu and b) highlight the injustice about the fact that media isn’t giving more attention to this fact.

North of the border in Canada, there are reports of more patients with the virus whose primary symptoms involve stomach issues, such as vomiting.[1] Back at home here in the United States, the Mount Sinai Health System here in New York reports that COVID-19 may cause stomach flu-like symptoms, even if there are no issues with breathing.[2] Unfortunately I was not able to find statistics on precisely what percentage of COVID cases, particularly with this Omicron variant, have symptoms primarily involving the stomach, but it’s clearly a large enough percentage to get the attention of a large hospital system in New York as well as public broadcasting media in Canada.

And it seems like media is giving little, if any, attention to the fact that COVID could present itself as predominantly (or solely) like a stomach flu. This is unfortunate and unjust because, quite frankly, it is leading a whole population of people (of which I was one) to think that if you have symptoms that resemble a stomach flu, you can just brush things off as a stomach flu. In doing this, a large number of people may end up having COVID and not realize it.

So, I hope media does a better job of covering how the virus can act like a stomach flu. And, in general, I hope that news media really doubles down on making sure the general public is educated on what sorts of symptoms to look out for with this virus, as well as continue to highlight the fact that one can have the virus asymptomatically.

Until then, though, I want all who read this post to realize that if you have what feels like a stomach virus, you should test for Coronavirus, and at that, ideally test with a PCR test (since those are more accurate than at-home tests). Perhaps you have a stomach flu, but perhaps you have COVID-19 instead.

Note: I will not publish a blog post next Monday.


[1] https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/covid-gastro-symptoms-1.6431665

[2] https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/diseases-conditions/viral-gastroenteritis-stomach-flu

What Are…Punitive, Restorative, and Transformative Justice?

For quite some time, I’ve heard discussions about the differences between punitive and restorative justice. However, while starting to do research on a “what is” post comparing the two, I discovered yet another type of justice that is getting talked about more: transformative justice.

All that being said, what are punitive, restorative, and transformative justice?

In summary:

  • Punitive justice focuses on punishing the wrongdoer for the action that is wrong.
  • Restorative justice focuses on repairing the harm of the crime instead of taking retribution.[1]
  • Transformative justice focuses on reforming or overhauling systems that played a part in the wrongdoing in the first place.[2]

The difference between these three approaches to justice is stark yet important, because the differing approaches mean differing attitudes towards how various crimes and criminals are treated.

To illustrate this, I will use a hypothetical example: a kid who was bullied in a schoolyard and responded back by punching the bully. The punitive justice approach to this would involve the person who punched getting punished for the punch, as well as the bully getting punished for the bullying. For the same sort of situation, the restorative justice approach might involve a meeting in the school office involving the kids (and possibly their parents) to discuss where the bullying stemmed from, how it resulted in the punch, and how both can be addressed. A transformative justice approach in this sort of situation would involve a schoolwide (or districtwide) review of school bullying policies so as to make sure there are stronger anti-bullying protections, anti-bullying education, and making it easier for someone who gets bullied to bring it to the attention of a teacher or school staff person.

Personally, I am a fan of getting to the root cause of a problem and addressing it—as such, my approach of preference, if I had to choose one, would be transformative justice, whenever possible. Unfortunately, the will to do the sort of transformative justice required to address certain crimes is often lacking, therefore resulting in large-scale transformative justice sometimes being out of reach.

Restorative justice fails to bring that systemic transformative change, yet has become popular due to its being a way of (in some cases with the criminal justice system in the United States) addressing the issue without contributing to mass incarceration. It is the type of justice that allows for low-level drug offenders to go into treatment for drug rehab instead of entering prison without that rehab. On a related note, it must be said that transformative justice, in some cases, can get to the root cause of certain issues an individual may have, even if it doesn’t get to root systemic issues.

Punitive justice, on the other hand, is the makeup of a lot of punishment in the American criminal justice system. And, at times, the criminal justice system is critiqued for being overly punitive, like in cases where criminals end up with long prison sentences for the aforementioned low-level drug offenses. Some believe that such bruising punishments can act as a deterrent to other people, yet at the same time, there are at least some types of crimes where it must be questioned whether a punitive approach is really the wisest one.

Hopefully, this post helps separate what punitive, restorative, and transformative justice all are. That being said, if you have questions or comments about any or all of these terms, feel free to comment below!


[1] https://emu.edu/now/restorative-justice/2011/03/10/restorative-or-transformative-justice/

[2] Ibid.

An Argument for Free Mass Transit

In my hometown of New York City, there has been increased attention lately on the issue of fare evasion—when someone seeks to avoid paying the fare required to get on a bus or subway train.

I made a tweet on social media pointing out that an easy way to get rid of fare evasion is to get rid of fares. Tweets aside though, I really think mass transit should be free, and there are some compelling arguments in favor of it.

Chief among them is the environment. If we really want to do all we can to take care of the environment, there needs to be more mass transit, better mass transit, and more incentive to take mass transit. Why? Because driving a car results in significantly more CO2 emissions per trip per mile than mass transit—either bus or rail.[1] This is another way of saying that driving a car is significantly worse for the environment than using public transportation. By making public transit free, especially in a time when driving is getting more expensive due to soaring gas prices, we are adding an incentive for people to ditch vehicles that are bad for an environment that desperately needs to be taken better care of by us as human beings.

Speaking of expensiveness, free public transport would create a means of getting around that even the poorest people in the working class can afford. This is not currently the case, which is a part of why some people are so poor that they can’t afford to get jobs.[2] After all, it costs money to drive to and from a job interview (let alone work), and currently with most public transportation, it costs money (for some, too much money) to take a bus or a train to and from a job interview or work. And then there are many others for whom the money used on a daily basis for public transit means money not spent on other basic necessities, such as food or paying off certain bills. Free public transit eliminates the potential barrier to a job for some, and the difficult choice of having to choose between paying for public transit and paying certain key bills for others.

There is a third argument in favor of public transit that should get highlighted, though: it means that government resources don’t have to be used on addressing fare evasion. There are some cities, such as mine, that are using government resources, such as more police officers in subway stations, in order to try and address fare evasion. However, if there are no fares to evade, then critical police (and government) resources can be directed in other, hopefully more productive, ways than trying to catch someone who didn’t pay $2.75 at a subway turnstile. I wasn’t joking when I said on social media that one easy way to eliminate fare evasion entirely is to eliminate fares entirely.

By this point in my post, you may be thinking the following: “Brendan, this sounds nice, but who’s going to pay for this?” Each person will have a different take, but personally, I think we should start with people who could take mass transit yet drive instead. Currently, mass transit is at least partially paid for on the backs of fares that need to be paid regardless of how wealthy or poor you are. What this means is that someone who is homeless can at least in theory find themselves needing to pay a fare to get on mass transit—something that shouldn’t sit right with anyone. After all, doesn’t that sound like knocking someone when they are down? Which, perhaps, is what having to pay a fare for mass transit in the first place does to so many of us.


[1] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200317-climate-change-cut-carbon-emissions-from-your-commute

[2] I wrote a blog post on this issue: https://blindinjusticeblog.com/2019/11/18/some-people-are-so-poor-they-cant-afford-to-get-jobs/

Coronavirus Update From New York City: May 5, 2022

I hope all of my readers are healthy and safe, regardless of where you live.

Even though I have now had a couple of close brushes with COVID (another scare happened soon after Easter, when one of the people I ate Easter lunch with outdoors tested positive a few days later), I continue to remain COVID-free as the BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant continues to spread in New York City. The rest of my household also remains without COVID.

Speaking of boosters, I am glad to say that my parents received their second boosters! Both of them experienced some side effects from the second booster, but getting the second booster still most certainly beats getting hit seriously with the virus itself. And as a side benefit, our household got four free COVID tests! All the tests expired at the end of April though, so we had to use them quickly (and use them we did).

The BA.2 subvariant, on the other hand, continues to spread significantly in New York City. The level of spread is, at least for me, high enough to act with caution, high enough for me to currently avoid larger gatherings while being unmasked, and high enough to not want to eat indoors right now. It also means that when I go to a gathering with several people, I like to get tested so as to make sure I wouldn’t contribute to a super spreader event of any kind.

One sobering note I will end this post on is that there is a high likelihood that we will have surpassed 1 million deaths from COVID by the time I write my monthly update in June. We are approaching as many lives lost as there are people in San Jose, California. If that isn’t sobering, I don’t know what is.

That is it for me, for now. As always, I look forward to hearing how others are faring!