Earlier this year, we told you about Starbucks' stance on gun laws. The company allows customers to carry firearms in stores and cafes where local laws allow.
But the stance has, in a way, backfired. Gun-ownership advocates now descend on Starbucks on regular "appreciation days," locked and loaded -- like in July, when 60 gun-toting caffeine junkies arrived at a Sioux Falls Starbucks, touting both their state's gun laws and appreciation for Starbucks allowing them to openly carry.
Just imagine the scene for a few seconds: A café full of customers who have no idea a gun march is headed their way, suddenly surrounded by 60 guns.
My question to Danny Cowan, Starbucks' global communications direction, at the time was, do other customers in the store have the right to know that a gun event is headed their way? He uncomfortably answered, "I can't speak to that." The result, up to this point, is that what started out as a liberal policy on the part of Starbucks has turned into a rallying cry for gun advocates.
After our previous post, one gun advocate, "m1gunr," shared the scene of an event in Seattle in the comments:
"8 Open Carriers were in downtown Seattle today for over 2 hours. We visited 3 Starbucks and walked thru Pike Place Market and hung out for almost an hour, no one was hurt or arrested. We Open Carriers were standing as a group at the SW corner of 3rd & Pike when the "Mom's Group" showed up on the other corner. We must have made them afraid even though I waved at them and invited them over to us. They hustled across the street and down the block away from us."
Maybe the moms were intimidated. Maybe they didn't want to be around guns. Or maybe they had jobs to get to. Regardless, it turned into a show and the main stage was a Starbucks cafe. Three of them for that matter.
Shannon Watts, founder of the gun reform group Moms Demand Action, which formed the day after the Newtown school shootings, pointed out that Starbucks enforces a 25-foot smoking ban around all cafes, but will not take a stance on guns.
The question was posed to founder Howard Schultz, who said, "There's a big difference in the connotation of someone holding a gun and someone holding a cigarette."
Now Starbucks is going half-caf/half-decaf on guns.
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In an open letter that will be published in major newspapers tomorrow, CEO Howard Schultz writes:
"Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called "Starbucks Appreciation Days" that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of "open carry." To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. Some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction, including soliciting and confronting our customers and partners."
However, Schultz is clear "this is a request, not an outright ban."
"Why?" Schultz writes. "Because we want to give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request--and also because enforcing a ban would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers, and that is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on."