Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Suppose I bring a gun to Starbucks anyway?

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NEW YORK -- If you're like me, you have probably spent more than one sleepless night pacing the floor, shaking your head, and crying "When? When will Starbucks finally take a stand on the gun-control issue?!"

Well, friends, our moment is here. As you almost certainly know, Starbucks has locations everywhere, including those states with "open carry" laws (laws that permit private citizens to carry their guns around unconcealed). Being a live-and-let-live sort of place, Starbucks has had no policies prohibiting guns from its stores in states where concealed or open carry is legal.

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In some of those states, gun owners have recently taken to arming themselves and holding pro-gun meet-ups (called "Starbucks Appreciation Days") at various Starbucks locations -- including, obnoxiously, an attempt to hold one at the Starbucks in Newtown, Conn. (Starbucks corporate officials ultimately decided to close the Newtown store on the day the rally was scheduled.)

Starbucks, being a billion-dollar corporation, doesn't really care if you're a gun guy or a peacenik, just as long as you have money to spend on Frappuccinos, scones and Norah Jones CDs. But these impromptu gun rallies apparently unnerved a lot of Starbucks customers, and this, in turn, unnerved Starbucks.

So CEO Howard Schultz issued a statement earlier this week -- it appeared as a full-page ad in four major American newspapers Thursday -- announcing Starbucks not only wants these gun rallies out of its stores, it wants guns out of its stores entirely. Here's Schultz:

"(T)oday we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas -- even in states where "open carry" is permitted -- unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel."

Oh yeah? Suppose I bring my gun into Starbucks anyway? What're you going to do about it, Schultz? Well, nothing. Nobody's going to stop you if you're intent on packing heat in Starbucks -- because, as Schultz noted, "this is a request and not an outright ban." Why so mealy-mouthed?

"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."

You can applaud Starbucks for taking a principled stand here, but I think it's more likely executives did some calculations, realized they stood to lose more money by staying silent than by taking a stand, and issued this statement with the bottom line in mind. Will this gentle, pleading statement actually dissuade the open-carry contingent from congregating in Starbucks locations?

Well, if you deliberately take your gun into Starbucks after being asked not to, you risk looking like a jerk. Of course, if you're the sort of person who thought it was a good idea to hold a gun rally at the Newtown Starbucks in the first place, you probably don't care very much about looking like a jerk. But at least Starbucks has made its point in writing, and now gun owners can no longer say they have the chain's tacit approval to take guns into their stores.

 

Justin Peters writes Slate's crime blog slatecrime.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2013 A17

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