Pity poor Starbucks. In the end, the Seattle-based coffee giant says all it wants to do is sell coffee.

But increasingly, it has been dragged into the fracas between open-carry gun activists who want to be able to keep taking their firearms with them when they buy their morning lattes and gun-control advocates who'd rather the company banned such behavior.

Starbucks struck a compromise when it announced this week that guns were no longer welcome in its stores, but stopped short of an outright ban.

The company will run an ad in some major newspapers Thursday, an open letter from CEO Howard Schultz, explaining that his company is being used as a political stage and that guns in his stores make his customers uneasy.

Some are calling it a "don't ask, don't tell" policy; Starbucks, in a Q&A for employees said deciding to make this public request was not easy.

The company said it is not asking its employees to enforce the policy, to avoid confrontations with armed customers.

Zack Hutson, a company spokesman, said Wednesday the Starbucks brand is being misrepresented in an increasingly "uncivil" debate.

"We're not anti-gun or pro-gun," he said. "We simply believe weapons should not be part of the coffee-house experience.

"Most of our customers and partners are more comfortable without them in the stores. Everyone is welcome; guns are not."

On blogs and comment threads Wednesday, the announcement set off a firestorm -- with open-carry supporters saying the company caved to pressure, and those clamoring for an outright ban saying it didn't go far enough.

Dave Workman, senior editor at The GunMag, a publication of the Second Amendment Foundation in Bellevue, said reaction from gun-rights supporters has been mixed: "You have people who are swearing they're not going to spend another penny with Starbucks and others admonishing some of their own for boorish behavior and practicing in-your-face politics at a private business.

"I almost feel sorry for Starbucks," he said, "stuck in a place they don't want to be."

With 7,000 company-owned stores across the country, Starbucks prides itself in being a "third place" -- away from home and work -- where customers can sit with a cup of coffee and their laptop or have a conversation with a friend.

There's almost an expectation that such an apparently liberal-leaning company with a ubiquitous presence would be the kind of place to ban guns outright.

But the gun issue has hounded the company since it said in 2010 that it adheres to laws in states where it operates -- permitting guns in states with open-carry laws and prohibiting them where such laws don't exist.

More recently, open-carry supporters have been holding "Starbucks Appreciation Days," events in which gun-rights advocates show up in stores with their guns -- a practice Schultz in his announcement Tuesday called a disingenuous portrayal of the company as a champion of open carry.

Kate Beck, a Shoreline mother of two and a member of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America that formed in the wake of last year's Newtown, Conn., school shooting, was encouraged by Schultz's announcement.

Starbucks, she said, "has tried to stay neutral and I think this is the best neutral position they can have, while keeping their employees and patrons safe."

Moms Demand Action counts among its 100,000 members nationwide -- about 900 of them in Washington state -- hunters and a sharpshooter.

The group has been trying to urge change at Starbucks by staging a national boycott, "Skip Starbucks Saturdays," and was prepared to deliver more than 50,000 signatures it gathered in recent months.

"We turned up the heat and made it a real focus since the gun enthusiasts were using Starbucks as a rallying place for their open-carry meetings," Beck said.

"I think it shows the brilliance of Howard Schultz asking responsible gun owners to respect the policy."

Jim Beal is a Vietnam veteran who carries his holstered .45 with him at all times -- including into Starbucks throughout the region. He said the announcement doesn't really change anything.

He's loosely affiliated with the group OpenCarry.org, which focuses on the right to openly carry holstered handguns, and said he doesn't condone the "showboat" activities of some enthusiasts.

The 60-year-old Beal has testified before the Legislature -- taking his gun with him into the state Capitol -- and has offered classes on the state's gun laws.

He said he'll continue to take his gun into Starbucks, something he said has never drawn negative response -- even in downtown Seattle.

"A lot of people are pretty upset and I know gun owners who are planning to cash in their Starbucks cards," Beal said.

"The way I see it, basically things are still as they were before. They say they prefer we not do it, but they won't ask us to leave."

Ralph Fascitelli, president of Washington CeaseFire, said while the announcement was a good first step, he accused Starbucks of "fence-sitting" by not banning guns outright and Schultz of waffling.

"He equivocated. We don't want you bringing guns into our stores, but we'll serve you?" Fascitelli said.

"I think they've handled this issue horribly; they made a bad business move (with the 2010 announcement), now they're in this in-between place where they're creating more problems for themselves."

CeaseFire recently worked with Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on a campaign to get Seattle businesses to declare themselves Gun Free Zones, and Fascitelli said they didn't specifically reach out to Starbucks.

It's not true, he said, that companies must allow guns in their stores just because state and local laws allow people to openly carry.

"Private businesses have the right to allow or disallow those carrying guns just as they can deny service to people not wearing shirts or shoes," he said.

Ultimately, said Starbucks' Hutson, the issue will have to be settled not by corporate executives but by lawmakers.

But Fascitelli said in the face of government inaction on the state and federal levels, companies like Starbucks should take a stand and make their stores gun-free.


(c)2013 The Seattle Times. Visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

(39) comments

kbix

if you want a reason to not frequent starbucks here is a better one. they are throwing a ton of money out to defeat initiative 522. look it up. they don't want us to know what is in our food? i don't understand that. i haven't been since i found out last week. i truly miss the smiling faces of those wonderful baristas in the morning. and my thermos coffee is no where as good. but you have to stand for what you believe. i wrote a long letter to mr. schultz. i doubt i will get an answer.

Wisdom

Quoting the article, "But the gun issue has hounded the company since it said in 2010 that it adheres to laws in states where it operates--permitting guns in states with open-carry laws and prohibiting them where such laws don't exist". Ralph Fascitelli stated, "I think they've handled this issue horribly; they made a bad business move (with the 2010 announcement), now they're in this in-between place where they're creating more problems for themselves". Give an inch and you may lose a mile...

OldIrish

"....and others admonishing some of their own for boorish behavior and practicing in-your-face politics at a private business." I agree. I don't think this casts pro-gun people in a good light. It's a bit reminiscent of the Chic-fil-a hooopla where the restaurants were hounded by gay rights activists.

Wisdom

"OldIrish": Indeed, it smacks somewhat of "showboating" (if not a form of "bullying"). As I've mentioned in the past, I am pro-gun and have been properly trained in the responsible handling/use of my firearms. While it is not illegal, I fail to understand one's narcissistic desire to blatantly display his/her "open carry" position to society. If anything, these days it incites a heightened sense of concern if not downright fear--and, given any volatile condition(s), may even initiate trouble...

American Patriot
American Patriot

Don't much see the point of open carrying unless it is a comfort issue like having to wear a coat on a hot day. Why advertise? If you're in a place a Democrat decides to rob, you make yourself a target by being able to defend yourself. They will try to eliminate you first. When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

OldIrish

Agreed. I'm pro-gun as well and, yeah, I see no reason to go swinging-my-you-know-what around for the whole world to see. It does absolutely nothing to reduce the anti-gun opposition/sentiment. And, yes, I think the "in your face" tactics just fan the flames

Wisdom

Spot on, "OldIrish"...

Wisdom

"OldIrish": Indeed, they are "fanning the flames". I daresay, this practice is not unlike "gun slinging" in the "Wild West". I do believe that such a trend properly belongs in the past (and in the cinemas). It is my hope that responsible owners of firearms will remain mindful of the negative aspects of the "Johnny Rambo" mentality. Indeed, one's "Right To Bear Arms" also carries with it a moral and societal responsibility when one chooses to own a firearm. "Owning" does not mean "Flaunting"...

electriczipper
electriczipper

"But Fascitelli said in the face of government inaction on the state and federal levels, companies like Starbucks should take a stand and make their stores gun-free."
Why would they want to do this unless of course they to were wanting to be accomplices in the murder of unarmed & undefended people in this country just as our anti-gun DEMOcrat party leadership has been & doesn't hesitate to be when disarming the law abiding even knowing in advance it'll endanger our children as well which has--

electriczipper
electriczipper

--been proven over and over in our schools and in cities with the strictest anti-gun laws. But I do admit that open carry may be a bit tacky in some environs. Maybe they could hang a sign at the door stating that concealed carry is allowed here but not open carry as the safety, satisfaction & comfort of our customers as always comes first. Thank You All for your cooperation. The Management. jmho

American Patriot
American Patriot

You say you're pro-gun, and then turn around and support a president and party that wants to take your guns away .You make me laugh, Old.

OldIrish

Glad you're amused, Ampat. I support the Repubs in some cases and the Dems in others. Guns is one of the areas I support the Repubs. If you think being a straight party-line person is good, or a single issue voter is good, that's your choice. That's luxurious and easy. Good for you. You can follow the script. Anyhow, I used to much more supportive of the GOP in general. Much less now. As for guns, it's an important issue but not the ONLY issue.

OldIrish

I hear you, Wisdom. On any issue there's always an element that gets carried away. The Johnny Rambo types DO hurt the pro-gun cause in my opinion. The same can be said for so in-your-face gay activisits, environmentalists, evangelist Christians, etc.

Wisdom

Yup, "OldIrish", we're on the same page here. In my opinion, extremists are over-zealous gluttons who find pleasure in purging themselves all over everyone else. In this case ("open carry"), I again maintain that this is nothing more than a bullying tactic. What average citizen (or locale's employee/supervisor) is willing to approach someone sporting a firearm and ask him/her to put it away or leave the premises? Might as well have a tattoo reading, "THUG", scrawled across his/her forehead...

Wisdom

Right on, "OldIrish". Personally, I do not believe that any/either party has "cornered the perfect political market". As I tend to see it, politics are one thing whilst common sense and civility are quite another. To clarify, the two often seem to react as well together as combining oil with water. It causes me to wonder, as a registered voter, "am I casting my ballot in favor of the lesser of two evils rather than the greater of two goods?". Buffets and boxes of chocolates--know what I mean?

electriczipper
electriczipper

Poppycock is what I would say in another time but as all this negative "Propaganda" manufactured & unleashed by the Demo(lition)crat party takes hold in the minds of society as so clearly seen here judging by these comments I'll just say it's a sad day indeed.

electriczipper
electriczipper

Or old irish people? ;)

electriczipper
electriczipper

One issue voting is fine & desired when you look at the bottom line issue. It being is this party really any good for U.S.? A 17 tril & growing debt, an ever widening gap between the rich & poor, the murder of school children premeditatedly facilitated(extremely understated) by our own Demo lawmakers, & the continuing pursuit of the destruction of our constitution & bill of rights would suggest to me that most of u.s. haven't been one issue voters or just not the right one issue. Demos/Gops Bad!

Wisdom

What?

ArtH

So the anti-gun lobby proposes extreme measures and some pro-gun extremists react by going to Starbucks. Each group is a small proportion of each side and neither needs to lead the debate. I wonder if Starbuck's policy includes Law Enforcement officers? That might cause quite a reduction in demand for both coffee and donuts. Seriously, I haven't seen a qualifier in their stated policy. I would hope law enforcement is excepted in their current policy.

American Patriot
American Patriot

I must agree about following the party line. I agree with Repubs on a few things but there are big government progressives in the midst like McCain and Graham. I don't agree with Repubs on several things like the war mongering either. I stand against socialism and the misery and death it brings to all except the select few at the top. I would not wish it on my worst enemy if I had one; therefore, I cannot agree with Democrats on nearly anything.

DW111
DW111

I think I'll go to Starbucks today, with a firearm, not bye any coffee, and use their free WiFi...

Wisdom

"DW111": Well, the ONLY way to be intimidating is to buy a "skinny" pumpkin spice latte--that should raise a few eyebrows (and show everyone who's boss)...

Longviewlocal86

I wish all the less-mature gunslingers would learn to be more gentleman like. Carrying is a big responsibility. You are not helping our cause by walking around a Starbucks with a rifle slung on your back.

Wisdom

"Longviewlocal86": Well stated. These "less mature gunslingers" were probably kicked off the playgrounds when they were children. Unfortunately, they are still playing in the sandbox...

LongviewParent

No more Starbucks for me. My 2nd Amendment Right is just as important to me as my 1st. Amendment Right and all others covered by the Constitution. Any establishment that hinders any of these will loose my business.

Wisdom

Well, you show 'em, "LongviewParent"! While you're at it, be sure to carry your gun in plain sight on playgrounds, in day care centers, on school grounds, everywhere else that you can show the world how tough you are. You'll be easy to spot: no shirt, no shoes, just a gun belt and something foreboding in the holster for all the world to admire...

OldIrish

Longviewparent; As you wish you can stop going to Starbucks. However, in what way have they hindered your 2nd Amendment rights? They've asked that not bring your gun into their stores but that's hardly the same as jeopardizing your right to own firearms.

DW111
DW111

That's pretty phunny!!

DW111
DW111

When I go to Starbucks to use their free Wifi, I don't have a rifle slung over my shoulder, and nobody ever knows I was carrying a firearm. So their policy is moot. On the very rare occasion that I bye a coffee, they still seem to take my money.....

OldIrish

Yes, a moot policy. Actually, it's a "non-policy" if there ever was one. They won't disallow customers to bring guns into the store. They just prefer that cusomers *didn't* bring them into the store. So, I ask again, how does this "moot policy" or "non-policy policy" hinder our 2nd amendment rights?

electriczipper
electriczipper

This (Or old irish people? ;) )should be here, why it isn't has not yet been determined.

electriczipper
electriczipper

One issue voting is fine & desired when you look at the bottom line issue. It being is this party really any good for U.S.? A 17 tril & growing debt, an ever widening gap between the rich & poor, the murder of school children premeditatedly facilitated(extremely understated) by our own Demo lawmakers, & the continuing pursuit of the destruction of our constitution & bill of rights would suggest to me that most of u.s. haven't been one issue voters or just not the right one issue. Demos/Gops Bad!

electriczipper
electriczipper

Speaking about gun control issues such as this discomfort inflicted on customers of Starbuck's I've got to ask has anyone here noticed that Kerry has signed the U.N. small arms treaty? It seems to me (I may be wrong) there is little coverage of this by most media outlets & if you really want to keep your 2nd amendment rights now is the time to contact your Senators and ask them politely not to betray U.S. by endorsing this outrageous act of treason. Ye ol slippery slope has been freshly greased.

DW111
DW111

Zipper, the congress will never ratify this so called treaty. I have no fear of the UN, and nether should you. If it wasn't for the US funding the UN, there wouldn't be one. Not worried about this in the least........

Lenny F
Lenny F

Gee, I wonder where that debt came from, becaue GWB left us with a large surplus and paid for those two wars, right?

Lenny F
Lenny F

If you own a business, don't you have the right to find certain things unacceptable? Heck some Mc Donalds are outlawing sagging pants, I bet your ok with that, right?

OldIrish

Lenny, every business has broad latitude on refusing service. The only exceptions are things covered by Public Accomodation Laws such as race, religion, gender, nationality and in many states, sexual orientation. AFAIK there are no Public Accomodation Laws that include guns so, yes, a business could refuse service to those who are carrying IF they wanted to put themselves in the middle of a very hot debate.

electriczipper
electriczipper

@Lenny F - Read up on the 1999 bank deregulation bill Signed into law by Bill Clinton & endorsed by both sides of the isle. Then also read Major General Smedley Butler's"War is a racket"speech. There is much more everyone should read & then maybe more voters will realize as I now do that any vote for either Dems or Repubs has been a vote wasted (for aproximately150 yrs) as is evidenced by the continually worsening state of our country. This has got to be stopped & reversed. Only"WE"can do it! ;)

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