Courts Rule, Seriously People, Machine Guns Not OK (& Other Legal Debates)

If the Mars landing wasn’t controversial enough for you, spice up this Friday with an inter-office debate about gun control.

The Supreme Court has recognized an individual’s right to keep and bear arms since 2008. Because it conveniently refused to say which types of arms, several other lower courts have filled in the gaps.

The U.S. courts of appeals for the Third, Sixth, and Eighth circuits have each ruled that no right exists for individuals to own a machine gun, according to the WSJ Law Blog. Now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is joining this group of gun-control advocates.

On Thursday, the Ninth Circuit held, “We agree with the reasoning of our sister circuits that machine guns are ‘dangerous and unusual weapons’ that are not protected by the Second Amendment. An object is ‘dangerous’ when it is ‘likely to cause serious bodily harm.’ Black’s Law Dictionary 451 (9th ed. 2009).”

“A modern machine gun can fire more than 1,000 rounds per minute, allowing a shooter to kill dozens of people within a matter of seconds. See George C. Wilson, Visible Violence, 12 NAT’L J. 886, 887 (2003). Short of bombs, missiles, and biochemical agents, we can conceive of few weapons that are more dangerous than machine guns.”

The timing of this ruling is certainly not lost on the general public.

The movie theatre shooting in Colorado and then the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin shortly thereafter bring the subject of gun control, especially multiple automatic weapons, to the forefront.

And, these events, including the legal rights and obligations surrounding the persons involved, can be at the forefront of discussion during your firm’s roundtable.

What is a therapist’s legal responsibility and protection for reporting the suspicious statements of her patients? How did these men obtain the legal permits and weapons used to carry out these shootings? What legal right for recompense do the families of the victims have against which agencies or individuals?

Yes, attorneys have busy schedules. But, when employees are not intellectually engaged or happy at their place of employment, productivity falls. That means lower revenue for your firm and sloppy casework for your clients.

In a 2010 study, James K. Harter and colleagues discovered that lower job satisfaction foreshadowed poorer bottom-line performance for companies, according to the New York Times article, “Do Happier People Work Harder?”

In fact, Gallup estimates that the cost disgruntled American workers is a staggering $300 billion in lost productivity each year (via NYT).

In addition, professionals become dissatisfied with their job when it holds no meaning or purpose. Jobs that provide little opportunity to learn or leave a person depleted at the end of the workday will increase unhappiness, according to Amy Wrzesniewski, an associate professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management and coauthor of Turn the Job You Have into the Job You Want.

So, if there was ever a better reason to create a roundtable debate, happier and more efficient associates—driving a more productive workplace—should create enough fodder for your firm.

Discussions about gun control, space exploration, or other meaningful topics will help employees bond with one another, in addition to voice their opinions concerning significant current events.

If successful, create a monthly forum for discussion of legal topics (not CLEs). Employees can enjoy the intellectually stimulating environment, and even bring in ideas for new cases.

Attorneys find more meaning in their work when it changes lives or laws, which—let’s face it—cannot always be the day-to-day requirements of the job. The job can, however, provide a place to discuss such life-altering legal opportunity.

If nothing else, “Stronger emotional connections at work lead to a myriad of positive physiological and social effects,” Sigal Barsade, the Joseph Frank Bernstein Professor of Management at The Wharton School, said to the HBR Blog.

If a debate over U.S. Second Amendment Constitutional Rights doesn’t get emotional between attorneys, what will?



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