Viewpoint: If lawful, Starbucks and guns can co-exist

By Sara Tirrito
City Editor

Starbucks is being shot down — by a group of people who oppose guns. The National Gun Victims Action Council has begun a boycott of the coffee chain in an effort to convince Starbucks to adopt an anti-gun policy for all of its shops.

The “Brew Not Bullets: Say No to Starbucks…Until Starbucks Says No to Guns” boycott began on Valentine’s Day, and the NGAC said in a Jan. 23 press release it will continue until “Starbucks rejects the [National Rifle Association]’s Pro-Gun agenda.”

Starbucks, on the other hand, recognizes that “advocacy groups from both sides of this issue have chosen to use Starbucks as a way to draw attention to their positions,” according to a March 2010 press release concerning the corporation’s policy on open carry gun laws.

The corporation takes its cues from state laws where its stores are located, meaning if the state allows open carry, Starbucks does too.

Starbucks’ practice of aligning its stores’ policies with state laws across the nation is logical. It doesn’t make sense to deny gun owners the rights that have been preserved for them in the 43 states that allow open carry and 49 states that allow concealed carry today. (Illinois and Washington, D.C., do not.)

Starbucks has no reason to suddenly infringe upon its customers’ constitutional rights, and the corporation recognizes this.

“We have examined this issue through the lens of partner (employee) and customer safety,” Starbucks Corporation wrote in the 2010 statement. “Were we to adopt a policy different from local laws allowing open carry, we would be forced to require our partners to ask law abiding customers to leave our stores, putting our partners in an unfair and potentially unsafe position.”

Frankly, a person on a shooting rampage or looking to start one could very well still enter a Starbucks or any other establishment that has a rule against guns. And in the event that such a rampage did happen, prohibiting other customers from their right to carry a firearm could leave them unable to defend themselves.

It seems that the most the rule could accomplish would be to help prevent the accidental discharge of a firearm on the premises. While this is something to consider, because accidental discharges do happen, one must also remember that Starbucks is not the only establishment that currently allows guns on its premises. Thus, making them the target is unfair.

In its 2010 statement, Starbucks asked “all interested parties to refrain from putting Starbucks or our partners into the middle of this divisive issue.” And the corporation was right to do so. Starbucks should not be used to further one group’s cause — either for or against gun rights. The corporation does not make the country’s laws.

If a group doesn’t want Starbucks to allow guns, it should be working to change the state laws. Those are the laws beneath which the coffee chain operates, and it’s clear Starbucks’ policies won’t change until those laws do. It makes much more sense to start at the source rather than try to make a law-abiding company into a scapegoat.

Sara Tirrito is a junior journalism news editorial major from Texarkana and is the Lariat’s city editor.