The Starbucks Coffee Company has become the subject of national media attention because some gun activists have decided to wear their guns openly, with loaded ammunition magazines close by, in Starbucks stores in California.
Starbucks says it doesn't want to be embroiled in the gun laws debate. I don't blame them for wanting to avoid controversy -- but they can't be left out of it. By choosing to appease these gun rights demonstrators -- demonstrators whose antics make many gun owners in our country blush -- they have put the concerns of the rest of their customers aside. By allowing guns in its stores, the company is jeopardizing the safety of its customers and employees.
That's why we have asked concerned citizens to sign a petition urging Starbucks to change its policy. That's why we've posted on our website a sample letter people can sign and give to the manager of their own local Starbucks, asking them to tell the company to change the policy. And we're just getting started spreading the word about this issue. Sorry, Starbucks.
Starbucks says it is simply complying with the law. But it would also be complying with the law if it barred guns from its stores. Peet's Coffee and Tea and California Pizza Kitchen, both of which banned guns after these demonstrations began, also are complying with the law. The law allows Starbucks to set the basic rules for its property. The issue is not the law. The issue is Starbucks' choice to allow guns in its stores.
Starbucks says it does not want to have to bar customers who are abiding by the law. But when Starbucks bars someone who is not wearing a shirt or shoes from its stores, or ejects someone who is loud and offensive, it is barring a customer who is abiding by the law. It is not against the law to dress differently or to exercise free speech rights, but it may be against company policy.
Retail businesses have the right to set policies that go beyond the minimum requirements of the law in running their businesses. Starbucks has a policy that endangers its customers and employees, particularly since there are virtually no restrictions on who can openly carry guns -- no permits, no training, no proficiency requirements and no knowledge of the laws is required. And since law-abiding gun owners can drop, lose or unintentionally misuse guns, allowing openly carried guns in Starbucks is bad policy. (Indeed, just this past September a gun activist at an "open carry" picnic was charged with reckless use of a firearm after his gun went off in a parking lot.) As long as it maintains that policy, we will be critical of that policy.
The gun extremist want an America where there are guns everywhere: not just in coffeehouses, but also in bars, churches, parks, banks and classrooms.
By capitulating to the gun extremists because they want this issue to "go away," Starbucks has made a hazardous mistake. Having seen what the gun pushers demand when they are given an inch, I again urge the company to reconsider its policy.