coffee, guns, & sensitivity

“Starbucks? You get coffee at Starbucks?” I get asked that question periodically. Sometimes by people who dislike the cost or taste of Starbucks coffee, sometimes by folks who dislike the way Starbucks treats its employees, sometimes by people who dislike the music at Starbucks, or the customers who frequent Starbucks, or the name Starbucks. And lately I’ve been asked that question by folks who are appalled by the refusal of Starbucks to ban firearms from their coffee shops.

starbucks and guns

That’s right, Starbucks allows its overly-caffeinated customers to be armed. Not every Starbucks; only those Starbucks in states that have ‘open carry’ laws**. According to Zack Hutson, a spokesman for Starbucks,

“We comply with local laws and statutes in the communities we serve, abiding by laws that permit open carry. Where these laws don’t exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited.”

So if your state or city allows folks to openly tote a firearm, then Starbucks says you’re welcome to take that firearm into their coffee shops. They don’t advertise this, but there it is.

Gun safety advocates think this stance is massively stupid. Gun rights advocates are basically divided into three camps. There are those who think anybody who’d enter a Starbucks is a communist who’s only about five minutes away from gay-marrying a sheep. There are those who dislike Starbucks because they’re only ‘gun-neutral’ instead of ‘pro-gun.’ And there are those folks who think Starbucks deserves a round of applause for their bold hey-we-didn’t-write-the-law stance on firearms.

The latter group organized Starbucks Appreciation Day. Which was last Friday, in case you didn’t notice (and you probably didn’t). Starbucks Appreciation Day was sort of like Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, only that was for hating gay folks and this was for loving firearms. Given that there’s some serious overlap among the gun-loving and gay-hating subsets, it’s not surprising that Starbucks Appreciation Day received some blowback (hah, blowback…see what I did there?) from the triple-shot testosterone black coffee crowd.

The CEO OF fAGbucks told the rest of us that if we dont support ass munchers getting married, we should not buy fagbucks, so I now go to the Coffee Bean

I’m aware of [Starbucks] recent backing of homosexual “partnerships”. My point was that they have not changed their open-carry policy and that behavior deserves acknowledgement. As long as the homosexuals don’t “invade my space”, I’ll let them suffer the consequences of their lifestyle.

Yeah. Fagbucks. One argument for getting coffee at Starbucks is you’re not likely to meet the guy who refers to it as ‘Fagbucks.’

In any event, I was pleased by Starbucks Appreciation Day. Not because I support the notion of openly carrying firearms — I definitely do not. I like Starbucks Appreciation Day because 1) it brings attention to Starbucks’ policy (which, in my opinion, really needs to change), and 2) I’m a very firm believer in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” So it makes me perversely proud to see people with whom I actively disagree making a public stand and exercising their constitutional rights. I’m more willing to support people who openly stand up for causes I dislike than I am to support a corporation that quietly refuses to adopt a policy that’s in the best interest of its customers. 

starbucks and guns3

Here’s the thing about freedom of speech and freedom of assembly: if it’s to have any meaning at all, it can’t be limited for reasons of sensitivity. These rights cannot be restricted simply because they might upset somebody.

It would, for example, be incredibly insensitive and deliberately offensive for gun rights advocates to hold Starbucks Appreciation Day at a Starbucks in Newtown, where more than two dozen children and teachers were murdered eight months ago. Only a group of world class jackasses would schedule a pro-gun rally in Newtown.

And so, of course, that’s exactly what the Connecticut Citizens Defense League decided to do. Not surprisingly, gun safety advocates objected. Equally unsurprising, pro-gun folks mocked them.

Interesting comments by the “victim class” from Newtown.

They need to suck it up. We don’t all stop driving our cars when there is a big car crash. We don’t ban flights over a town where a plane crashed. to heck with all that. If we want to be sensitive of the kids fears then let them stay home from public school for a year. My rights are not negotiable on someone elses fears.

As if we should be ashamed at insisting on rights in such an insensitive way. Screw that! Sensitivity is why they band open carry and concealed carry in most states ages ago. It took us DECADES of tragedies before people started insisting on overturning those laws. We will NOT crawl back in our holes because someone whines and cries.

I guess civil rights stop after a killing.

Seriously, these guys were actually offended–offended–by the notion that they should be sensitive to the pain and suffering of parents whose six-year-old children were recently murdered. In fact, they seemed to see this as some sort of challenge. “You don’t want me to bring a gun to your Starbucks in Newtown? Fuck you in the neck, you whining babies. I’m going to drive an extra ninety minutes just so I can bring a gun to Newtown. In fact, fuck you so much I’m bringing TWO guns now. Sensitivity is for pussies. Suck my puny white dick.”

The whole Starbucks Appreciation Day idea put the corporation in an uncomfortable public relations situation (which, let’s face it, is exactly where they belong for having such a passive policy). They had to choose between 1) maintaining their policies and showing themselves to be heartless corporate fuckwads or 2) being decent members of the community. They tried to choose both.

Starbucks issued a statement on the decision of pro-gun advocates to hold Appreciation Day:

These events are not endorsed by Starbucks. That said, our stores are gathering places for the communities we serve and we respect the diverse views of our customers.  We recognize that there is significant and genuine passion surrounding open carry weapon laws. Our long-standing approach to this topic remains unchanged.

Oh Starbucks, you had me at ‘that said.’ Except, of course, this is NOT an issue of ‘diverse views’ as the Starbucks statement suggests. It’s an issue of health and safety. While it’s true that occasionally somebody carrying a concealed weapon will prevent a crime from taking place, it’s a lot more likely somebody carrying a weapon will fire it in anger (and I don’t know about you, but every time I’m behind somebody who orders a “Venti iced skinny hazelnut macchiato, sugar-free syrup, extra shot, light ice, no whip” I want to kneecap them). It’s even more likely somebody will discharge their weapon accidentally (and if we’re lucky, they’ll only wound themselves).

starbucks and guns2

In the end, Starbucks is a corporation and the only thing corporations really care about is maximizing profit. Starbucks isn’t about coffee; it’s about selling coffee. At least whoever owns the Newtown Starbucks franchise had the decency to close the coffee shop five hours early, so there was no Starbucks Loves Guns event there.

Oh, and if Starbucks is so wicked, why do I buy their coffee on occasion? Simple. There’s a Starbucks about seventy paces from the entrance to the main branch of the public library. I can stop there, buy a big white chocolate mocha, take it into the library with me, and sip on it for an hour or two while I work.

I’m apparently willing to periodically sacrifice my principles in the interest of convenience.

** There are only seven states and the District of Columbia (in red) that prohibit the open carrying of handguns (California permits citizens to openly carry rifles and shotguns in rural areas). Fourteen states (in green) require some form of permit to openly carry a handgun in public. Seventeen states (in gold) allow open carry of handguns, though there are general restrictions (for example, it may be prohibited to openly carry a handgun into a church or an establishment that serves alcohol). The remaining twelve states allow full open carry (though individual businesses and establishments can forbid weapons on the premises).

open carry map

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