Starbucks has issued a letter asking people not to stage "open carry" events in their stores. What will your policy be?
Last month, gun advocates decided to hold a rally at a local Starbucks, where they openly carried firearms and thanked the coffeehouse chain for allowing them to lawfully do so.
Oddly enough, they chose a store in Newton, Conn., about a mile and a half from the scene of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took 13 lives last December. "Our community is still healing and we find it reprehensible that they are picking Newtown to rally," a spokesman for a group of survivors and families told reporters. As a result, Starbucks closed early and short-circuited the rally.
That event, and several other similar demonstrations around the country, set the stage this week for Starbucks to ask people, "respectfully," to please stop holding open-carry rallies in their stores:
[W]e've seen the "open carry" debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening. 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.
For these reasons, today 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.
Strikingly, Starbucks is at pains to emphasize that this is simply a request, not a ban. That's largely because a ban might "potentially require our partners to confront armed customers," the statement, issued in the name of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz reads, "and that is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on."
If you own a business that serves the public in any kind of retail environment, especially in states with liberal gun laws, you'll be facing this question soon, if you haven't already.
In fact, there's already a website run by open carry advocates, friendorfoe.us, that documents which retail establishments have asked members to leave while they were carrying firearms but accommodated them anyway. (At the time of this writing, more than 17,000 stores have been rated.)
The question is, what will you decide? Should store owners accommodate or ban the otherwise legal open carrying of firearms in their establishments?
Before you answer, think about what you would say if the customers were demonstrating in support or against another civil right or political issue.
Since I'm asking for your opinion, I'll give you mine. While I've lived almost my entire life in states with strict gun control laws, I've also served in the military and been a war correspondent. I've fired lots of guns, both as part of my military service and for fun.
As it happens, when I think of Starbucks, one of the first images that comes to mind is the store near where I used to live, in Washington, D.C. That happens to be right next to the Navy Yard Metro Station, near the military base where a gunman killed 13 people (the same day Starbucks issued its open letter).
Personally, the last thing I want to see in a Starbucks, or any public place, is a bunch of hotheaded people carrying firearms.
Bill Murphy Jr.: is a journalist, ghostwriter, and entrepreneur in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (with John Burgstone), and is a former reporter for The Washington Post. @BillMurphyJr