Starbucks Caught in Crossfire about Gun Laws

March 15, 2010
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Recently, corporations spanning the country have unwillingly become involved in a campaign by gun owners to parade their pistols openly in public view. Starbucks, the giant Seattle-based coffeehouse company, has been the primary location for meet-ups of local members of the “open carry” movement.

The open carry movement is composed of gun advocates across the 38 states where “open carry” laws allow guns to be “carried in public with little or no restriction,” as explained in the New York Times. According to CNN Money, one main internet community group of the movement, OpenCarry.org, has nearly 28,000 members already. However, the rapidly spreading movement has sparked more opposing views from control groups, increasing the mess of Starbucks’ entanglement in this issue.
Starbucks is being both criticized and praised recently for its stance on the issue in response to open carry groups meeting in their stores. The corporation released a statement saying it would not expel gun carriers from the stores of the chain, and would instead maintain acting in accordance with with local law. “The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores,” Starbuck officials said.

Their stance, however, puts them precisely in the middle of controversy, with open carry supporters vowing to regularly buy the chain’s coffee to show support, and gun control advocates petitioning for the company to change its view. According to the Wall Street Journal, a group called Protest Easy Guns has planned to protest Starbucks's policy this Saturday by demonstrating outside an Alexandria, Va., Starbucks. Also, CNN Money reports that the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence wrote a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, urging Starbucks to implement a policy preventing gun owners from carrying firearms in their stores, similar to the chains Peet’s Coffee & Tea and California Pizza Kitchen. The Brady Campaign is seeking supporters by an online petition on its website that insists Starbucks change its policy.
The New York Times suggests that the goal of the open carry movement is “to make the case for liberalized concealed weapon laws by demonstrating how uncomfortable many people are with publicly displayed guns.” The Wall Street Journal also adds that supporters of the movement are “taking advantage of some momentum in state legislatures to expand gun rights, although most new and pending measures don't specifically address unconcealed handguns.” Therefore, it is evident that the act of carrying unconcealed guns into businesses not only exercises the rights of the people, but aims to make a statement about the importance of gun rights in America.
Even though the open carry movement is gaining traction in communities throughout the nation, it still is not part of the main focus of the National Rifle Association, which still aims to increase the ability of citizens to carry concealed handguns. According to the New York Times, a spokesman for the N.R.A., Andrew Arulanandam, said that the organization “supports the right of law abiding people to exercise their self-defense rights in accordance with state local and federal law.”
While Starbucks is trying to avoid controversial attention with its non-confrontational policy decision, it is clear that unless a change is made to appease both groups, gun control supporters may irritate the issue even more and gun rights groups may portray Starbucks as a true believer in their cause, a reputation the corporation wishes to avoid.





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