Starbucks sticks to its guns

When most Americans step into a Starbucks, they do not expect a Wild West experience – frothing cups sent skidding down the counter, horses tied up on the street or pistols slung in the holsters of fellow latte-sipping patrons. But when it comes to gun barrels and biscotti, it turns out they would be wrong. They do go together.

The coffee-purveying giant that is more normally associated with liberal enlightenment and urban sophistication not only has a policy that allows people to come into its US shops bearing unconcealed (but unloaded) weapons, but last week found itself actually defending its barista-and-bullets stance, albeit a little reluctantly.

Embarrassment began brewing for Starbucks earlier this year when gun-ownership advocates began gathering at eateries and coffee shops in California and some other western states with weapons conspicuously on hips to highlight the legality of openly wearing weapons, and to press for even fewer restrictions. Two chains targeted for the events, California Pizza Kitchen and Peet's Coffee and Tea, responded by banning all guns in their locales.

Retail companies are indeed free to ask customers not to pack on their premises. Starbucks, however, decided to maintain the policy it has always had – not to bar weapons in shops located in communities where so-called "open carry" laws are on the books. Consistent? Yes. Popular? Not with gun-control groups, notably the nationwide Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, whose members are as angry as scorpions in a cookie jar.

Last week, protesters from both sides descended on Starbucks shops in the chain's home town of Seattle, and in other cities. That the company finds itself at the centre of the wider national gun-ownership debate is not making it happy. "Advocacy groups from both sides of this issue have chosen to use Starbucks as a way to draw attention to their positions," it said in a statement. "As the public debate continues, we are asking all interested parties to refrain from putting Starbucks or our partners [employees] into the middle of this divisive issue ... The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores."

Contrary to the hopes and expectations of Obama supporters, the tide in that debate has seemed to turn against gun-control advocates. Twenty-four states, mostly in the west and south of the US, have passed laws to loosen gun restrictions in the past two years. A federal law signed by President Barack Obama allowing visitors to national parks to openly wear guns has just gone into effect, and the US Supreme Court may shortly overturn Chicago's hand-gun ban.

All that may be why the gun-control lobby has seized so fiercely on the Starbucks furore to draw a line in the coffee grounds. "The practice of packing guns in places like Starbucks is intimidating and could be potentially dangerous to our families and communities – and it must be stopped," the Brady group said in a statement. A petition posted on its website to make Starbucks change its mind about guns had attracted 30,000 signatures by the week's end. "There are gun owners in this country that want to force guns into every nook and cranny of our society," argued Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign. "They want to normalise the concept of guns being everywhere." Almost all US states have some kind of open-carry legislation on their books.

Encouraging Starbucks to stick by its guns, as it were, are not only the National Rifle Association but also the group Open Carry that helped instigate the pistol-packing public gatherings in the first place. "The issue is you have the right to bear arms," says Mike Stollenwerk of Open Carry. "And a gun is like insurance." Let's hope the only shots in Starbucks remain the ones in the espressos.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister

Met Police confirm it was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested

News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf plays a World War II soldier in forthcoming drama Fury
films

Eccentric Fury star, 28, reveals he is 'not a really confident actor'

Life and Style
Time and Oak have developed a product that allows drinkers to customise the flavour and improve the quality of cheaper whiskey
food + drink

Sport
football

Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday

Life and Style
The final 12 acts will be facing Simon Cowell, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Mel B and Louis Walsh tonight
fashion

The X Factor's judges colourful outfit was mocked by Simon Cowell

News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Senior Change Engineer (Windows, Linux, VMWare) - London £35k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past