brands under fire

Starbucks Braces for Valentine's Day Shots at Brand

Posted by Abe Sauer on January 30, 2012 03:01 PM

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.


Mike Taylor United States says:

So, with Starbucks actually following the letter of the law, your angst is now firmly pointed there as you seem to hope that some horrible tragedy befalls them so you can rock back on your fattened laurels and chortle the mantra; "I told you so."
One problem; People that actually submit themselves to the vetting process to legally carry a firearm have been checked by not only local, but state as well as federal authorities. These are by and large people that have taken the time and made the investment to understand the consequences of criminal action. How many other types of customers can you say that about?
Carrying a firearm is a serious responsibility, and anyone who has ever taken the time to learn about the subject will openly tell you that the first concern is a respect for safety. Muddled legislation does nothing to make the public safer, rather quite the opposite. Slanted opinions only create a misguided cloak of ignorance.

January 31, 2012 11:07 AM #

A Sauer United States says:

As a holder of a CCW permit, I don't "seem to hope" for anything. I only point out the reality of what might change Starbucks' policy.

January 31, 2012 11:29 AM #

Darren United States says:

It's worth noting that while NGAC is asking Starbucks to take a position on a political topic, the folks organizing a buy-cott instead of a boycott are doing so to show appreciation for Starbucks conforming to the law in the places where they have stores.

Open carry is not legal in Texas and I will not be open-carrying on February 14.  I will simply be buying coffee, leaving a $2 bill for a tip and telling the folks who work there that I appreciate Starbucks' position on firearms laws, which is to conform to the laws as written.

If I want to change the laws, the proper way to do that is through the legislative process.  Since NGAC (which is basically the Brady Campaign, rebadged) cannot win that way, they are trying to intimidate and smear a company into providing greenmail to support their political agenda.  

Me?  I'm just buyin' coffee. Smile

January 31, 2012 12:05 PM #

A Sauer United States says:

Good point. I would add that the carry laws in most states allow for private businesses to make their own decisions about allowing firearms inside. So, even if Starbucks were to ban guns inside its shops, it would still be in accordance with the law. While the brand's policy statement sugar coats it by kind of spinning it as if Starbucks is just "following the law,"  it's still a very independent decision on Starbucks' part.

January 31, 2012 02:24 PM #

Jim Batty United Kingdom says:

Well ... only in the US would this sort of discussion even emerge! I suppose there would be no question about concealment or not of weapons by members of the public in coffeeshops in Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo ... and other 'frontier' places. And I guess Americans cling to their 'frontier' roots, despite their cities' settlement and sophistication long ago (witness the very notion of a Starbucks).

The law is the law. But I doubt I'd spend much time in any coffeeshop where customers felt the need to carry guns and assault weapons.

February 1, 2012 06:37 AM #

Big Gay Al United States says:

It's not in the store where we feel the need for protection.  It's the cities in general.  Just look at the statistics for our largest cities, which, coincidentally, typically have the highest crime rates, and usually, the strictest gun control laws.  It's not a "frontier" mentality that keeps us armed, it's a "wanting to stay alive, unharmed and safe" mentality that keeps us armed.

February 1, 2012 06:49 AM #

coupons United States says:

Do they boycott starbucks or what
carrying guns to coffee house is not good
it is not safe

February 2, 2012 12:16 PM #

Comments are closed

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