By Shannon Watts – Founder, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America via HuffingtonPost.com
In the weeks since Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America launched our petition calling on Starbucks to change its policy of allowing guns in its stores, we have been both encouraged and dismayed — encouraged by the outpouring of support from moms and others in communities across the country, and dismayed by the determination of some gun owners to continue endangering our families by bringing loaded weapons where they don’t belong.
Last month, Starbucks allowed more than 60 armed advocates to bring everything from handguns to semi-automatic rifles into a Starbucks in Sioux Falls to demonstrate that open carry is “normal.” Starbucks executives in Seattle knew about this rally in advance but did not alert customers or security. The armed gun advocates were welcomed inside.
Then, last week, gun advocates held a so-called national “Starbucks Appreciation Day,” carrying guns into Starbucks across the 43 states that allow open carry. Moms Demand Action got word that this day was in the works and organized moms across the country to stand as a counterforce demanding gun sense from the international chain.
As the founder of Moms Demand Action, I am used to seeing vitriol directed against those who advocate sensible gun reforms. Even so, I was still shocked and horrified to hear that gun advocates would bring their open carry celebration to Newtown, Conn. The Newtown Starbucks sits right next door to the church that laid several children to rest just 8 months ago. The wounds are still fresh and slow to heal. Taunting this community with a display of guns is unconscionable.
By late afternoon on that Appreciation Day, Starbucks agreed. They announced that out of respect for the community they would close their Newtown store for the remainder of the day. We were relieved by this decision, although it came many hours too late. This threatened confrontation only served to remind the country that the tragedy that happened in Newtown just months ago could happen anywhere. In fact, the high-powered firearms used by the Sandy Hook shooter can be legally toted into a Starbucks in 43 states.
Starbucks says that it adheres to local law, but in all but seven states Starbucks stores allow open carry, meaning customers can bring loaded weapons into stores. The decision to allow guns in stores is out of step with other Starbucks policies. In May, the company announced a smoking ban within 25 feet of their stores — going well beyond local law to act in the interest of customer health. For years, guns have been banned at Starbucks corporate headquarters and employees in stores are not allowed to be armed — local laws would allow both.
I am at a loss to understand why Starbucks thinks that guns are any less dangerous to customers than cigarettes, particularly in the face of multiple in-store gun incidents. I am equally confused as to why Starbucks values the safety of its corporate leadership so far ahead of the safety of their customers. A child or teen is shot in this country every three hours and fifteen minutes. Given the enormity of that statistic, we should be doing everything we can to keep children out of harm’s way.
Gun advocates likes to remind us that the vast majority of gun owners are responsible citizens. And we accept that. But until Congress and state legislatures pass basic, sensible reforms like universal background checks, permit and training requirements, and a magazine limit on assault weapons, there is little to prevent a lunatic from accessing a gun through the same system that gives lawful citizens easy access to weapons.
The fact that guns are readily available with so few checks in place makes it outrageous that Starbucks, a meeting place in communities nationwide, would allow guns in their stores.
Starbucks is hearing from members of our local chapters across the country who are spreading the word that moms and families care about this issue. Our moms are telling other moms about this dangerous policy that puts families at risk and encouraging them to get their coffee from places like Peet’s Coffee & Tea, a company that is committed to protecting customers and has made a commitment to keep guns out of its stores.
Starbucks claims that their business is about more than making a profit. They claim that putting “people before products” makes “good common sense.” Banning guns from their stores across America would go a long way toward demonstrating that commitment to customers. A ban on guns in Starbucks would not only make our communities safer, but would send a strong message that all of us — from Congress to state legislatures to American businesses — play an important role in ending the epidemic of gun violence in this country.