Back in July a pro-gun Facebook page began to organize a Starbucks Appreciation Day to show support for Starbucks’ corporate policy to respect local laws by allowing legally armed citizens to carry in their stores. It’s worth noting that Starbucks didn’t come out and say they advocated the carrying of firearms, only that they would respect local laws and not post signs in their stores barring the practice.
Apparently that was enough to get our community motivated to inundate Starbucks stores across the nation with hundreds of people open carrying their firearms to “show appreciation” for Starbucks policy of neutrality.
Starbucks has been an unwilling participant in the ongoing national gun rights debate for many years. As recently as 2010 Starbucks was being used as a battleground for gun rights by both sides of the political debate. Looking at a press release dated March 16, 2010 we get a glimpse of where Starbucks stands on the issue.
We recognize that there is significant and genuine passion surrounding the issue of open carry weapons laws. Advocacy groups from both sides of this issue have chosen to use Starbucks as a way to draw attention to their positions.
While we deeply respect the views of all our customers, Starbucks long-standing approach to this issue remains unchanged. We comply with local laws and statutes in all the communities we serve. That means we abide by the laws that permit open carry in 43 U.S. states. Where these laws don’t exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited. The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores.
At the same time, we have a security protocol for any threatening situation that might occur in our stores. Partners are trained to call law enforcement as situations arise. We will continuously review our procedures to ensure the highest safety guidelines are in place and we will continue to work closely with law enforcement.
We have examined this issue through the lens of partner (employee) and customer safety. Were we to adopt a policy different from local laws allowing open carry, we would be forced to require our partners to ask law abiding customers to leave our stores, putting our partners in an unfair and potentially unsafe position.
As the public debate continues, we are asking all interested parties to refrain from putting Starbucks or our partners into the middle of this divisive issue. As a company, we are extremely sensitive to the issue of gun violence in our society. Our Starbucks family knows all too well the dangers that exist when guns are used irresponsibly and illegally. Without minimizing this unfortunate reality, we believe that supporting local laws is the right way for us to ensure a safe environment for both partners and customers.
I would like to point out that the position Starbucks has taken is admirable. It’s neutral out of necessity however it clearly states they will honor both federal and local laws governing the carrying of firearms. Good for them, I believe it’s a sensible position for a major corporation to take.
The press release also asks that parties on both sides of the debate refrain from putting Starbucks, or their partners (employees), into the middle of the “divisive issue”. They don’t want to be the battleground for the gun rights debate, they simply want to do what’s right by staying neutral and honoring federal and state laws.
To show our appreciation, our community does the exact opposite of what we’ve been asked to do by a 2nd Amendment friendly business. We organize a national rally to bombard Starbucks stores across the nation with armed gun rights advocates. As a result, their Facebook page has been absolutely overrun with posts from people on both sides of the debate posting their political views, links to news stories, images people walking around armed in front of coffee shops, etc. We’ve drug Starbucks smack dab into the middle of the debate and put them on the spot against their explicit wishes.
We didn’t show our appreciation to Starbucks, we slapped them in the face. The company went so far as to close their Newtown CT store in anticipation of the pending rally.
I see the whole “Starbucks Appreciation Day” as a misstep on our part. I’m all for activism and take part in it myself. I’ve been present at rallies where I’ve open carried — heck I even helped organize such rallies. But to go against the wishes of an ally like Starbucks and make their business a focal point in the national gun rights debate, when they’ve asked us not to do so, is irresponsible. As a matter of fact, because of our actions, I wouldn’t be surprised if Starbucks reconsiders their corporate policy. Let’s hope that’s not the case.
We can be vocal, we can even be loud, but we need to be calculated and purposeful in our actions. We also need to be respectful to businesses that support our rights and not go out of our way to burn bridges with them.
If you want to show your appreciation to Starbucks, buy their coffee and encourage others to do the same. If you want to organize a 2nd Amendment rally, pick a public area or a business that’s anti-gun. But let’s try to avoid alienating allies by drawing them into the line of fire when they’ve specifically asked us not to do so.
With all of that being said, I’m craving an Iced Latte. Starbucks, here I come.