It was bound to happen, Starbucks has put out an official request that gun owners no longer openly carry firearms into its stores:
Few topics in America generate a more polarized and emotional debate than guns. In recent months, Starbucks stores and our partners (employees) who work in our stores have been thrust unwillingly into the middle of this debate. That’s why I am writing today with a respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.
As usual this decision has ignited very strong emotions on both sides of the gun debate. Many gun owners, at least on my social media feeds, are very upset and some have even begun to call for a boycott of Starbucks. Gun control advocates are cheering this as a success because they believe they have convinced Starbucks to ban firearms from their stores. I think both of these reactions are out of proportion.
Starbucks hasn’t banned firearms from its stores, it has merely requested that gun owners no longer openly carry firearms into its stores. The second to final paragraph makes this clear:
I would like to clarify two points. First, this is a request and not an outright ban. Why? Because we want to give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request—and also because enforcing a ban would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers, and that is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on. Second, we know we cannot satisfy everyone. For those who oppose “open carry,” we believe the legislative and policy-making process is the proper arena for this debate, not our stores. For those who champion “open carry,” please respect that Starbucks stores are places where everyone should feel relaxed and comfortable. The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers.
I’m not upset at this request. After all, openly carrying rifles into Starbucks was bound to turn sour. Political debates are lose-lose scenarios for businesses. No matter what side of a debate a business supports it runs the risk of alienating a portion of its customer base. That’s why most businesses make no statements regarding a political debate unless the issue stands to cause direct harm to its bottom line.
People often allow their personal bias to color their judgement. Some gun rights activists and gun control advocates saw Starbucks’ neutrality as a pro-gun stance. This incorrect judgement lead gun rights activists to hold Starbucks Appreciation Day and gun control advocates to hold Skip Starbucks Day. Both sides turned neutral Starbucks into a political battlefield and, as the company’s request makes clear, that was not a position it wanted to be in:
Recently, however, we’ve seen the “open carry” debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening. Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called “Starbucks Appreciation Days” that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of “open carry.” To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. Some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction, including soliciting and confronting our customers and partners.
In other words, Starbucks feels as though both sides have been acting like assholes and interfering with its simple desire to just sell some fucking coffee. Now, unfortunately, some gun rights activists and gun control activists are probably going to take Starbucks’ neutrality as an anti-gun stance and continue pushing political agendas in its stores.
I will close by saying this: if a person or organization doesn’t want to involve itself in a political debate then that wish should be respected. Neither side of the gun debate should demand boycotts of Starbucks or host political demonstrations on Starbucks’ property. Starbucks hasn’t prohibited carry in its stores so those wanting to open carry while getting a cup of coffee may still do so. Just be respectful of Starbucks’ neutrality. Don’t make a public spectacle of yourself. Those of you who fall on the anti-gun side should do the same. Be respectful of Starbucks’ neutrality and don’t start yelling at people carrying guns. If you mind your and we mind our business everybody sitting in Starbucks’ who doesn’t give a shit about either of our causes will be happier.