When Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz posted a public letter asking gun owners not to bring their guns into Starbucks stores, some in the media and anti-rights crowd declared it a victory, while some in the gun-rights crowd called it a declaration of war. It was neither.
As a company, Seattle-based Starbucks tends to lean left, supporting "progressive causes and candidates, but when the professional hoplophobe lobby got upset about seeing some Starbucks customers legally, open carrying firearms, Starbucks offered a reasonable response. It said its job and objective is to sell drinks and snacks, not to set social policy for the places where their stores are located. They said that they would simply follow the laws in the various local jurisdictions, not supporting or opposing the practice of lawful defensive firearm carry. The anti-rights lobby was furious and several different groups decided that Starbucks must be punished, so they called for boycotts of the popular coffee shops. In response, pro-rights advocates called on gun owners to show their appreciation for Starbucks' reasonable position by making it a point to do business with the company, especially during the anti-rights' boycott periods. The result was that on the designated boycott days, Starbucks locations around the country did more business than normal.
Unfortunately, some of the rights activists took things too far. Someone (the first we recall seeing was on an anti-gun site) reworked Starbucks' iconic mermaid logo, placing guns in the mermaid's hands and adding a message about "guns and coffee" in the circle around the picture. This image became popular among some pro-rights advocates, and the parody logo found its way onto T-shirts, baseball caps and coffee mugs. It was sort of cute and clever, but those sporting the bastardized logo were being rather insensitive at best to the folks at Starbucks. After all, the company has spent years and millions of dollars to build their brand, and businesses rarely consider it a friendly act to modify or repurpose a logo without specific permission to do so.
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Rights advocates, not satisfied with merely being able to exercise their rights, also wanted to take the opportunity to taunt their opponents. They called for gun owners not only buy coffee and muffins on days the antis were boycotting Starbucks, but to do it while openly carrying their favorite firearms. They called these "Starbucks Appreciation Days" and rallies. In most cases, these appreciation days went without a hitch of any kind, but the problem was that it placed Starbucks in the middle of the debate – exactly where it had said it didn't want to be. To top it off, some advocates chose to express their rights to the fullest by carrying long guns such as AR-15s and tactical-style shotguns. While their actions were completely legal, the end result was not what anyone was looking for – at least not anyone on the pro-rights side.
The open-carry rallies at Starbucks attracted media attention and coverage that the antis' boycotts could never have generated. Suddenly, the issue of open carry of firearms in Starbucks stores was national news. That put Starbucks in an even more uncomfortable position than before; it found its company name and logo as a rallying cry, and some of its stores as a rally point for a cause that was not its own from either side.
So, after more than a year of unjustifiable attacks and failed boycott attempts, the anti-rights crowd got a major concession from Starbucks – not because of anything the antis did, but because some pro-rights advocates were overzealous.
As stated above, Starbucks was never really a friend to gun owners or the cause of individual rights, but neither was it an enemy. It's still not. While Starbucks has politely asked us to please not carry in the stores, it stopped short of declaring an official policy against the practice. It gave no indication that it's going to post "No guns" signs at any of its stores or ask customers to leave if they show up packing. Some of our guys have been offended by the Starbucks letter – especially those most zealous in their "appreciation" of Starbucks – and are now calling for our side to boycott the company. It's time for level heads to prevail. As a national company, Starbucks has stores in every corner of the country serving coffee and muffins to adherents of every political philosophy and creed. As such, it has wisely tried to maintain neutrality on most politically sensitive issues, including the right to carry.
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As far as we at The Firearms Coalition are concerned, Starbucks is still holding a neutral position. If we happen to be near a Starbucks when the urge for a good cup of overly roasted coffee hits us, we will not hesitate to stop in – whether we are carrying (as we usually are) or not – and we suggest that other gun owners should do likewise. If some anti-rights group again calls for a boycott of Starbucks, we will go out of our way – and encourage others to do likewise – to give the company a bit of our business. Unless Starbucks posts an official policy forbidding the lawful carry of firearms in their stores, we don't plan to treat them as our enemies and hope that others will take a similar position. We have enough real enemies to worry about without trying to make more.