For most, Valentine’s Day is a hallmark holiday, dedicated to expressions of love and companionship between partners. One advocacy group has chosen the day as a backdrop for boycotting a renowned coffee chain and its decision to allow customers to carry sidearms.
The National Gun Victims Action Council (NGAC), a network of 14 million gun victims, their families, and supporters—including 89 peace and religious fellowships—called on its supporters to stop buying Starbucks products from Feb. 14, until the open gun policy is changed.
Calling the move an “economic lever strategy,” the NGAC states on its website that “to end the boycott will require Starbucks to ban all guns from its stores—and become a major supporter of policies to reduce gun violence.”
Starbucks is “damaging its ‘socially conscious company’ brand,” said Elliot Fineman, CEO of NGAC, in a press release. Its tolerance of customers openly carrying guns “in thousands of their stores significantly increases everyone’s risk of being a victim of gun violence.”
According to the press release, thousands have petitioned against Starbucks’ policy, and a direct appeal was made to its board. Starbucks is holding firm on its stance, saying it is just following the laws of host states.
“We comply with local laws and statutes in the communities we serve. … We abide by the laws that permit open carry in 43 U.S. states,” said a Starbucks spokesperson in an emailed statement. “Where these laws don’t exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited.”
Starbucks added that it encourages customers to protest to government officials instead. “We are extremely sensitive to the issue of gun violence in our society and believe that supporting local laws is the right way,” the spokesperson added.
Forty-three states allow open carry of firearms, while 49 permit conceal and carry. Gun license requirements vary by state. In the state of New York, applicants must be without prior conviction for a felony or serious offense, according to the government’s handgun law website.
According to the NGAC, an Indiana study found that “many open carriers are dangerous people with extremely violent histories.” Fineman claims that open carry is one of many reasons there are 12,000 gun homicides in the United States each year, and that Starbucks’ “promotion” of open carry can have a devastating effect.
According to the NGAC, if 10 percent of the 14 million NGAC members followed through with the boycott, Starbucks’ revenue would take a hit—big time. If each customer stopped spending $8 a week on Starbucks products, the company would lose $560 million a year. Starbucks’ profit in 2009 was $562 million.
The group sees strength in numbers. “We will prevail because our side outnumbers the NRA’s extremist side by minimally 50 to 1,” states the NGAC’s website.
Gun Control Laws
“Contrary to popular opinion, the ability to carry a weapon openly does not currently derive from the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” said John Pierce, co-founder of OpenCarry.org, in his article; it comes from “the constitutions and statutes of the 50 states.”
According to the Open Carry website, an FBI study in 2006 found that it is not in the nature of criminals to openly carry weapons in public; they tend to conceal their weapons in order to avoid attention from police.
“Statistically speaking, citizens who are openly wearing a properly holstered handgun and willing to subject themselves to the intense law enforcement scrutiny … are not criminals,” Pierce said.
Dr. Jeremy Blanks, a senior research scientist and board member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws, said in an article titled “Guns vs. Crime” that data concerning gun control paints a supportive picture.
“In almost all cases, the areas in the U.S. with the fewest gun control laws and highest gun ownership also have the lowest crime levels,” stated Blanks, adding that areas with the highest restrictions—Washington, New York, and Chicago, for instance—have “some of the highest crime rates in the U.S.”
“There is no evidence to show that any [gun] laws have ever reduced crime or violence,” Blanks concluded.
The NGAC plans to continue its Starbucks boycott until the specified conditions are met. The advocacy group also plans on boycotting various partners of Starbucks, such as Barnes & Noble, Nordstrom, and Hyatt.
California Pizza Kitchen, IKEA, Disney, and several other retail stores have banned customers from bringing handguns and rifles into their establishments, despite state laws.