Starbucks is increasingly positioning its brand as "libertarian." It sells beer and wine now. It allows the open carry of guns by customers. And it publicly supports gay marriage.
Now, two U.S. consumer groups are picking Valentine's Day to protest the coffee giant over one of those policies. (Hint: It's not the obvious one!)
On February 14the, the National Gun Victim's Action Council (NGAC) is calling for "a nationwide boycott of Starbucks stores and its products" with the goal "to eliminate the risk of guns in public places and ultimately to bring sane gun laws to the U.S."
Why Starbucks? The NGAC has that covered. In its news release, it states:
"WHY STARBUCKS? Currently, Starbucks allows guns and assault weapons to be openly carried in its stores (in 43 states) and concealed and carried in its stores (in 49 states) (See Photos). Starbucks' compliance with the National Rifle Association's Pro-Gun Agenda was exposed in 2010 when members of the "open carry" movement began meeting in popular chains, such as California Pizza Kitchen, Peets, IKEA, Disney and Starbucks openly carrying their handguns and assault rifles. To protect their customers and employees, all of the retail chains—except for Starbucks— banned guns from being carried in their stores."
The NGAC is absolutely devoted to getting Starbucks negative press on this issue. Its blog is filled with inflammatory statements like "Starbucks Commitment to the NRA Pro-Gun Agenda Exposed" and "The NRA Thinks 'The Guys With the Guns Make the Rules.' Starbucks Agrees." To get its message out, the NGAC even posted its boycott announcement to the Times Square Jumbotron.
Starbucks locations across America, such as in Denver, have faced protests over the policy allowing the open carrying of firearms.
It's noteworthy that the Starbucks policy at the heart of the debate is about the "open carry" of guns, where pistols are worn on the outside of clothing in plain sight, "cowboy style." It's a practice gun advocates in states with more restrictive conceal carry laws, like California, use to demonstrate what they consider a Constitutional right.
In retaliation, a movement has sprung up for gun owners nationwide to "support their local Starbucks and thank them for serving great drinks and not getting involved in the gun debate. Feel free to TIP them as well! We are better customers than the anti's!" The movement's Facebook page already has 8,560 confirmed as "going." Yes, there is a t-shirt.
This seems like a battle the NGAC is destined to lose, as pro-gun control Starbucks consumers will struggle to make the connection while gun freedom advocates are known for their voracious activism against (perceived) threats to gun ownership.
Starbucks has seen a few incidents that could make for espresso "shot" puns. Last August, a woman died after she accidentally shot herself in a Starbucks parking lot in Sacramento, California. Then, just a month ago in Wyoming, "a 17-year-old Cheyenne teen was cited ... after she dropped her purse, causing the gun she was carrying in it to go off in a local coffee shop." That local coffee shop was a Starbucks. It should be said that the girl was under age and did not have a permit to carry the weapon.
Tragically, the one way NGAC will 'win' the Starbucks gun battle is if the brand's policies lead to an intentional, or even accidental, homicide by gun inside a coffee shop. Then, Starbucks' policy will take some blame for such a shooting which one expects would lead to a ban.