Buy latte, pack gun: Starbucks hit with boycott -- and 'buycott'
Those who prefer to drink their lattes packing protection on their hip turned out at Starbucks across the country on the first day of a "buycott" organized by gun owners -- countering the Starbucks boycott called this week by the National Gun Victims Action Council.
The issue of Starbucks allowing gun owners to openly carry their weapons in states that have "open carry" laws has been simmering for years. The new boycott, which launched Tuesday, aims at persuading Starbucks to join a growing list of retail chains, including Peet's Coffee, California Pizza Kitchen and IKEA, which prohibit guns even when they're otherwise legal.
"Starbucks allowing guns to be carried in thousands of their stores significantly increases everyone's risk of being a victim of gun violence," Elliot Fineman, head of the Chicago-based council, said in a press release announcing the boycott.
Most of the visible action Tuesday seemed to be on the buycott side of things, though, as gun groups across the country urged their members to show up at Starbucks -- not necessarily with their weapons -- and spend.
Joe Huffman, a Seattle software engineer who writes a gun blog based in his native Idaho, reported that he and his friends spent $131.64 at the Starbucks in Seattle's main shopping district Tuesday.
"I wasn't carrying a gun. I did have a jacket on that had an [National Rifle Assn.] life member patch," Huffman said in an interview. "I wanted to demonstrate that even though they're under a lot of pressure, we're very appreciative of them standing up against those people."
Similar "Starbucks Appreciation Day" demonstrations were reported in several states, including Hawaii, Tennessee, and Michigan, as well as in several suburban communities around Seattle, where Starbucks is headquartered.
In Columbus, Ohio, students promoting the right to carry guns at Ohio State University protested outside a Starbucks, carrying signs with such slogans as, "Because I CAN'T carry a cop," the Lantern student newspaper reported.
"I threw out the idea of a Starbucks appreciation day on my online forum, and God Almighty, it caught fire," Dave Workman, editor of the Gun Mag, based in Bellevue, Wash., said in an interview.
"These guys want Starbucks to act as their surrogate, to push this social bigotry against gun owners, and I think the gun owners have responded rather well," Workman said. "The gun guys are willing to put their money where their mouth is, while the anti-gun guys are trying to take money away from Starbucks. Now if I was in business, if I was Howard Schultz, I would sit back and think, 'Guess whose side I'm on? Not the people who are taking my business away.'"
Starbucks officials did not respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment. But in a statement on its website -- placed there in 2010 when the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence launched a petition campaign targeting the chain -- Starbucks said its policy was to follow existing state laws where its stores operate.
"That means we abide by the laws that permit open carry in 43 U.S. states. Where these laws don’t exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited. The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores," the company said.
The Brady campaign's legislation director, Brian Malte, told the Los Angeles Times that the group is continuing with its public pressure campaign, although it is not participating in the boycott.
"We still feel there's time for Starbucks to make the right decision to protect their employees and customers," Malte said.
But Fineman said boycott advocates made the decision that it was time to step up the pressure. He said the coalition includes about 50 secular anti-gun organizations, faith groups and private citizens touched by gun violence, whose numbers, through a complicated formula, he puts at 14 million.
Fineman, who runs a marketing firm whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, became active in gun control causes after his son was shot and killed in a San Diego restaurant in 2006 by a mentally ill man wielding a legally purchased handgun.
"We're not going to let people just say, 'This isn't our issue, it's a political issue.' Because there's no way that the current forces on our side can combat the NRA. They're just too big. They have an enormous amount of money and people, and they throw their weight around in a pretty big fashion," Fineman said in an interview.
"But who has more money than them? Corporate America. So the point is to get corporate America to do what we can't do."
[Updated, 3:48 p.m. Feb. 15: In a statement released Wednesday after this post was published, Starbucks reiterated that its policy is to comply with the law in the communities where its stores are. “As the public debate around this issue continues, we encourage customers and advocacy groups from both sides to share their input with their public officials," the company said. "We are extremely sensitive to the issue of gun violence in our society and believe that supporting local laws is the right way for us to ensure a safe environment for both our partners (employees) and customers."]
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Photo: Starbucks allows patrons to openly carry guns in the 43 states that have such laws. Credit: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence