Previous Post
Next Post


“Thus, even if we learned, say, that laws against child abuse did not, by themselves, reduce rates of child abuse, we would still have a strong ethical justification for keeping such laws on the books. Similarly, even if we could not show, for example, that laws banning private ownership of semi-automatic weapons actually reduced mass killings, a civilized society might still have sound ethical reasons for retaining these laws, as statements of its moral values.” – Ronald W. Pies, MD, Why Psychiatrists Must Confront Gun-related Violence [via Psychiatric Times]

Previous Post
Next Post


  1. Equating possession of an inanimate object with the commission of a malum in se crime, just amazing. How did this guy pass his SAT to get into college?

  2. So if I understand correctly, he is also speaking out against evidence based medicine. After all, even if prescribing antibiotics for the common cold does some collective harm by encouraging the development of drug-resistant bugs, docs should keep doing it for the placebo effect it has for patients.

    • A couple letters after your name don’t make you smarter, what they really mean is that you’re supposed to put more thought into your statements or you end up looking twice the fool when you’re wrong. Dr. Pies MD is looking mighty foolish today.

  3. This is very important because psychiatry is very persuasive in the field of ethics, fire control, and the Bill of Rights. Its surprising the types of intellectual disciplines that psychiatry influences. I usually consult psychiatry when determining where to place my cess pit too, because they have an instrumental role in providing material to fill it.

    • There are a lot of very intelligent people in the field. There are also a lot of quacks and fools. If you have anyone in your family who has ever been at the mercy of psychiatrists for any serious mental illness, you probably know what a difference there can be between the many bad psychs and the few who actually understand what they are doing.

  4. You do not need a ‘statement of moral values’ if you uphold those values withing yourself. A man of moral value would know that abusing a child is wrong, even were there no laws against it. While simply the owning of a weapon (and anything can be used as a weapon) does not effect your morality.

      • When faced with the irrational, the unreasonable, that which is without ethics or morality, what are your choices? To flee, to fight, or to fall.

        But you clearly misunderstand the use of laws. The law exists to punish actions which have already occurred. The law cannot prevent the actions of the irrational and unreasonable criminal. Criminals are those do not care about the law and make criminal acts such as theft and murder.

        Should laws exist that make criminals out of people who do not steal, or cause injury, or maliciously lead others to harm? Is it not unethical to take a law-abiding citizen exercising their natural and constitutionally enshrined rights without malice or harmful intent against their fellow humans, and pass laws against them until they are criminalized?

        Such overreaching and burdensome laws fall short of being the Law, and are merely rules written on paper and attached to punishments. However, we must follow them to the point that obeying becomes too toxic to the mind and soul, and then what? At that breaking point it becomes clear which laws are the Law (that which is intuitively obvious as being necessary at the minimum to the stability and good function of a society), and which laws are burdens not worth the weight of the load.

        We should all follow the laws such as we can, but that does not mean that all laws are right or that we are unable to distinguish between right laws and wrong laws. If I steal from a man, I am a criminal. If I injure a man, I am a criminal. If I carry a gun but do not steal or injure or actively threaten, no law passed can truly make me a criminal, no law can make me steal or injure others maliciously.

        Lastly, do we not have an ethical duty to resist that which is by every standard and code found to be wrong? Whether it is denying the criminal the fruit of their crimes or following orders as a guard at a death camp, are we not called by ethics to stand against what is wrong? I am not calling for vigilantes to roam the streets in search of crimes, that gets out of hand. But we do have an obligation to resist wherever possible, whether it is through force or through careful observation and reporting to the police after the crime.

        • Damn. I knew law school was a waste of my time…

          What you refer to is only one of the goals of the criminal justice system, retribution. Aka, eye for an eye. There are 5 others, that are applicable: deterrence (both general and specific; I know you disagree already); incapacitation (putting bad guys in jail also renders them incapable of further crime while in jail); rehabilitation/reformation (it’s hoped. through programs to reeducate and train); restitution (when applicable, make the victim whole; $).

          You assume that all violence and criminal behavior is irrational, or due to an emotional lack of self-control. If one follows your chain of thought, we may as well get rid of murder, or any crime that requires premeditation.

          There is plenty of behaviors that are prohibited, yet aren’t, as you say, stealing or causing harm. It just so happens that our (mine included) 2A myopia or blinders makes us sensitive to those that affect the 2A.

          There is nothing intuitively obvious. Intuition is subjective, not objective. Anti-2A can just as easily, and in good faith, use that argument. Laws, on the contrary, are meant to be explicit, clear (as much as possible…) and not open to subjective interpretations (I know, good luck with that, just as it is in any human endeavor).

          As for resisting bad laws, well, there’s a system for that. As long as you live in society, you will have to accept (even if you disagree) that there are processes and systems to voice disagreement.

        • @elnonio,

          You bring up some good points. However there is a balance between preventative laws and rights. The founding fathers were adamant about not crossing the line and upsetting the balance. That is why they instituted the Bill of Rights: To inform government that they shall not cross that line.

      • I do not have a problem with laws that punish evil actions. I have a problem with idea that ‘statement of moral values’ has any meaning. Though it has always seemed to me that the left is more concerned with appearances than fact, and with symbols and statements rather than action. A moral action that no one knows of is better by far than a moral statement that the world knows.

  5. The man’s reasoning is “strong ethical justification”. Comparing child abuse to owning a gun??? Other than an insult, this comparison makes no sense. Or he puts them in the same category. Which goes beyond insulting.

      • What’s wrong with being a “girlie man” and why is it inherently negative?

        Nice homophobia (and sexism, too).

    • Not to mention that in both cases he said “Even if the law does nothing, it should still be illegal”.

    • His argument is convenient to his beliefs. Rather than challenging his own statement vigorously and changing his beliefs based on what he finds, he has chosen to make a claim that can be torn down within seconds by people who are only casually acquainted the issues that he wrote about.

  6. By his logic we should end child abuse by not allowing people to have children. End domestic violence by making it illegal to get married. Banning guns is not like having child abuse laws, it’s like banning children. We have laws that make it illegal to kill a person with a gun and that’s just like child abuse laws. Sounds like a very educated man *cough sarcasm cough*

  7. And exactly how is he going to confront it ? What an ivory tower liberal.

    Come and get mine, Doc. Better bring lots of friends.

  8. “Thus, even if we learned, say, that laws against stupidity did not, by themselves, reduce rates of stupidity, we would still have a strong ethical justification for keeping such laws on the books. Similarly, even if we could not show, for example, that laws banning licensure of semi-retarded psychiatrists actually reduced quackery, a civilized society might still have sound ethical reasons for retaining these laws, as statements of common sense.”

    There, I fixed it for ya….

  9. Sooo… lemme see if I can translate this into laymans terms.

    ehem; “There’s no evidence that these laws actually achieve anything useful whatsoever, but we should keep them because they make me feel warm and fuzzy. And because they make ME feel warm and fuzzy, YOU have to follow them as well.” Is that about right?

  10. Went ahead and google’d this guy. He’s the editor-in-chief of that ‘psychiatric times.’ Wow.

  11. It’s not so complicated. Child abuse laws punish the immoral behavior. Gun control laws don’t punish an immoral behavior, they just punish the ownership of a tool.

    • +1

      That’s what the wingnuts cannot understand, even if they’ve had too much schooling. This “doctor” must believe that the answer to child abuse is to outlaw children.

  12. Even if gun violence doesn’t take place in every gun free zone at all times does not mean we shouldn’t attempt to curb gun violence by eliminating all gun free zones as disarming the law abiding populace creates targets of opportunity for the violent criminals who would target them for mass target attacks. We have a moral duty to eliminate gun free zones.

  13. Its the mind set of “we must do something anything” even if it does nothing so we can feel better although no problem is solved. When NHTSA was asked in front of congress how many lives would be saved and how much would backup cameras cost they said it would add $800 to $1000 per car and they did not believe that a single life would be saved because from their own study, it would not make a difference even after thousands of tests because it is unnatural to look forward while going backwards and even if the people in the tests saw something in the camera they did not react quick enough or paniced versus seeing something through the rear window. Although the evidence pointed to saving no lives and adding cost to each car, in 2014, it will be a mandatory safety feature for light trucks — beause it makes everyone feel better that they “tried” to do something.

    This is a ridiculous mind set we have right now. “it could, maybe, possibly, in one in a million instance save just one life” — or not because it will cost EVERYONE money, freedom and frustration just to make some intellectual elite feel good or some politican make believe he did something for the money he is paid come election year.

    What happened to the grown up’s and the critical thinkers? This touchy feely crap has got to go!

  14. Wouldn’t the analogy only support criminalizing mass shootings? Child abuse is to child abuse laws as mass murder is to mass murder laws.

    The apt analogy for this author would be to say, “We should ban belts because belts are the most common instrument used in child abuse”. NOW we have a working analogy, but he would never say this, because it’s CRAZY!

    This guy’s an MD, so I KNOW he has studied analogies and similes, so he must just have some crazy cognitive dissonance to think his argument is sound.

  15. Ethical justification, are you kidding me? I’m pretty sure this guy is an example of a person who is so smart he’s stupid. However, I believe that there is ethical justification for carrying my CCW to protect my child.

  16. False equivalence from start to finish. Possession of a gun is not the same as a mass shooting. We have laws against murder, and would have an ethical need to maintain those laws regardless of effectiveness.

    Laws against child abuse are laws against specific acts of abuse, and against the possession of images and/or audio of child abuse.

    Actions are the key, and we have an ethical duty to outlaw specific actions be they child abuse or mass murder. We also have an ethical duty to not infringe on the rights of the vast majority because of the actions of a few, whether it would be effective or not. You have to punish the criminal for the crime, not the victim, bystander, or those completely removed from the crime.

  17. False analogy is one of the prime fallacies when attempting use logic to argue a point. Child abuse and firearms ownership, or even child rearing and firearm ownership are completely different and any attempt to draw parrallels between the two is beyond absurd. The only line of argument this man could make that would tread any water is to say that as we have made laws outlawing child abuse, so too have we passed laws making it illegal to commit mass murder (because it’s murder…) And even though laws against mass murder, like those against child abuse, have not stopped people from committing attrocities, “we have sound ethical reasons for retaining these laws.”

    His argument is supposed to illicit an emotional response rather than cause most people to consider factual discourse. I am not suprised in the least that his argument is couched in such a way that he indirectly associates firearm ownership with something as heinous as child abuse.

  18. Outlaw children and you eliminate child abuse. Of course, when children are outlawed, only outlaws will have children. But I’ll give up my children when they pry them from the cold, dead hands of their babysitter.

    See, herr doctor, I can be as stupid as you. It just takes me a lot more effort.

  19. I found a way around Psychiatric Times’s firewall and read the entire article. It’s even sillier than this quote suggests. Dr. Pies claims he accepts the validity of the second amendment as defined by the Heller case, he just objects to semi-automatic weapons—by which he probably means automatic weapons! I’m guessing he has no ethical objection to revolvers and derringers. Either that or he’s run out of things to “editorialize” about. I think RF should start submitting editorials to Psychiatric Times. He’s as much an expert on psychiatry as Dr. Pies is on firearms.

  20. Ok I needed a few cups of coffee before I actually decided to read into this.

    Ronald starts off by talking about Scotland. It is a very beautiful place I have to admit, great golf there. Scotland while in certain instances could be compared to other cities of similar size, is not really a good comparison. We need to take into account ethnic, financial, and employment, or lack their of to truly understand not only size, but also population differences.

    I find it plausible to submit the following. Take two cities of similar size, anywhere in the world. One is relatively ethnically homogenous, meaning most if not all are of similar ethnic back ground. They also have a relatively low unemployment rate. Now you compare this to another city which has a predominant ethnic divide. Unemployment is also high. Even if we toss the ethnic divide, like Chicago, Oakland, DC etc, and simply throw in high unemployment, crime will be higher. People with no money will turn to crime just to get by.

    Ronald uses Scotland as an example, but he does not look at the United Kingdom which is having a big issue with violent crime. Sure people don’t die often by guns, but there are plenty of violent crimes that go one, and use other weapons. So he is ignoring certain facts in order to promote an agenda.

    Next we have the suicide issue. He points out that people seem to go out and buy guns to kill themselves. Given that almost have of the gun deaths in the US are in fact suicides, this is a valid point. However, i feel that this is a convenience. If someone really wants to off themselves, what’s to stop them from going and getting a large amount of oxycontin, or some other drug. they could cut their wrists or hang themselves. So really someone who wants to off themselves will do it regardless. We can discuss the Psychiatrists role in determining and preventing suicides among their patients, and how to reach out to those who might not otherwise turn for help but really that is off topic.

    Now let’s move on to the statement that the states with the least gun laws have the highest gun deaths. Really we need to take a look at the data. First, are the deaths from suicide, crime, or accidental discharges. I haven’t had enough coffee yet to really look at this. Bruce your input is always welcome! Given the states which he lists, many have high unemployment and probably also have high suicide rates. Alaska I know during winter months sees a spike in suicide.

    He doesn’t look at the current issue of violent crime, like DC which has seen a 57% spike in sexual assault, Chicago which has had 400+ murders this year alone.

    He simply ignores other cities and town, and filters his information in order to further an agenda. To that end why semi automatic guns, we use semi automatic shot guns for duck hunting etc. His case is flimsy at best and he certainly does not understand the function of firearms to make a real case for much of anything.

  21. I don’t have the time or inclination to read the entire written piece by the shrink. I did glance through it to get a sense of his premises and conclusions. The man repeatedly expressed half-truths and a lack of logical thinking. His observations were biased and narrowly focused, and failed in recognizing the potential unintended social consequences of his calls for more extreme gun control.

    His last sentence was amusing with his attempt at changing and re-wording a classic line about liberty and security:
    “If we, as a people, continue to sacrifice genuine security for a false sense of freedom, we shall find ourselves in a nation neither secure nor free”

  22. I suspect that some will embrace and agree with his anti-gun position since it fits in with their own political-social ideology, and their beliefs that subjective feelings are more important than the historical facts of human societies and the outside world. However, his piece will (hopefully) also be recognized by some professional therapists as an expression of the author’s irrational thinking being controlled by his immature feelings.

  23. Apparently comments are only available for “qualified” healthcare professionals.

    Also, did he really quote a VPC study?

  24. As a citizen, Dr. Pies can editorialize all he likes about gun control. What I find objectionable is his conviction that he has some special standing, as a physician, to editorialize about it. This is part of a pernicious trend in which activist doctors use public health concerns to lobby for restrictions on individual liberties. And it’s a slippery slope: first they lobby against smoking in the workplace—which strikes everyone as perfectly reasonable—then they push to ban smoking in all public outdoor spaces, and soon it will be in your own home. Next thing you know it’s illegal to serve foods with trans fats and sell large sugared beverages. Welcome to the nanny state. Except in this case the nannies are just puritans masquerading as disinterested technocrats.

    Some public health measures, based on sound epidemiological data, (not the case for the “public health” argument in favor of gun control) may be net goods. Especially if they’re introduced at the state or local level and don’t abridge our enumerated liberties. Maybe it’s a good thing, for example, to be compelled to wear a seat belt and drink flouridated water. But when doctors start becoming social activists in areas outside their expertise, as Dr. Pies has done, they should be dismissed as the quacks and bigots they really are. And even when they’re advocating within their area of expertise, their claims should not carry more weight than the collective wisdom of the general population—and certainly not of the Constitution.

    His distortion of the quote about security and freedom is not only telling, it’s repulsive.

  25. I have no problem having mala in se laws on the books even if they don’t prevent crime; they still have value in enabling us to punish the perpetrators. Mala prohibita laws are different – their only purpose is the prevention or reduction of crime. If such a law doesn’t accomplish that, it don’t accomplish anything good at all, and we might as well be free of it.

Comments are closed.