Human Rights

Gun Nuts Go Too Far Again -- And This Time, Even Gun Advocates Are Calling the Gun Crazies "Idiots"

Starbucks CEO asks customers carrying rifles to stay away after gun crazies stage a series of weapon-wielding protests.

Photo Credit: Photo by Shutterstock

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has decided that gun nuts do not go with lattes.

On Tuesday, he wrote an open letter to “Fellow Americans” respectfully asking gun owners not to bring their weapons into his nationwide chain of coffee shops, even in states where “open carry” laws permit residents to carry guns in public.

The request, which has drawn wide media attention and condemnation from pro-gun groups, came after gun-control foes targeted Starbucks. They saw a business with liberal values and decided to hold “Starbucks Appreciation Days,” during which they marched into Starbucks with their guns in plain view, ordered drinks, and lingered with their guns—including assault rifles—leaning against their chairs and laps.

The most confrontational of these incendiary protests was to take place at a coffee shop on August 9 in Newtown, Connecticut, near the elementary school where a shooter killed 20 children and six staff members last December. In response, Starbucks’ corporate management closed that store early, “out of respect for Newtown and everything the community has been through,” the company’s website announced. Newtown Action Alliance, a gun-control group formed after the shootings, said the protest by gun advocates from Connecticut Open Carry was “reprehensible.”

But the gun nuts did not stop there. In this YouTube video from San Antonio, Texas, three men gloated about sitting outside of a Starbucks with military-style rifles in their laps to enjoy their coffees and “freedoms.” After police showed up as asked what was going on and said that creating a disturbance was a crime, one man replied, “If someone has a problem with what were doing, that doesn’t mean we are breaking the law.”

Open Carry supporters even made stickers of the woman in the center of the Starbucks logo holding two pistols, surrounded by “I LOVE [heart] GUNS & COFFEE.”

These actions prompted Starbuck’s president and CEO to draw a fine line: not outright banning guns in states with open carry laws but asking people to leave their guns outside his business. Howard Schultz wrote:  

“Our company’s longstanding approach to “open carry” has been to follow local laws: we permit it in states where allowed and we prohibit it in states where these laws don’t exist. We have chosen this approach because we believe our store partners should not be put in the uncomfortable position of requiring customers to disarm or leave our stores. We believe that gun policy should be addressed by government and law enforcement—not by Starbucks and our store partners.

“Recently, however, we’ve seen the “open carry” debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening. Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called “Starbucks Appreciation Days” that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of “open carry.” To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. Some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction, including soliciting and confronting our customers and partners.”

Starbucks has more than 11,000 outlets across the country. Schultz told The Wall Street Journal that his letter was not prompted by the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday where 12 people were killed, “but we don’t believe guns should be part of the Starbucks experience.”

Many blue states and local governments restrict people from bringing concealed guns into certain businesses, such as those selling alcohol. Last week, Chicago adopted that restriction for restaurants and bars. But red states have gone the opposite way, such as a recent North Carolina law allowing guns in businesses unless restaurant and bar management expressly request otherwise.

Big chains such as Costco, CVS Pharmacy and Chuck E. Cheese’s explicitly ban guns, the Journal reported. In contrast, McDonald’s., Wal-Mart and Dunkin Brands allow guns where permitted by law. Only five states and Washington, D.C. ban guns from being openly carried in public. In California, guns can be openly carried in rural areas.

John Pierce, co-founder of, told The Journal that they picked Starbucks for their demonstrations because they knew that it would generate media coverage. But what has not been widely reported is how some guns rights advocates have called out the Starbucks protesters for being idiotic and unnecessarily provocative.

“We screwed this up, folks. We blew it,” wrote Second Amendment Check blog. “We alienated Starbucks and the public; driving them into the arms of the gun-grabbers, who now get to claim a victory in the war against our rights. We can and do praise and patronize companies for respecting our rights, but we CAN NOT abuse their respect and turn their places of business into a circus or a political arena.”

“It is idiots like the guys in the video who give law abiding gun owners, exercising their 2A [Second Aendment] rights a very bad name!!!!! If I were an employee of Starbucks, I would be VERY bothered by their actions,” commented Dave on the blog. “As a gun owner, and defender of the 2A, I am embarrassed by them!!!!!”

Of course, other gun rights advocates took the opposing view, displaying why they are aptly called gun nuts—and clearly make reasonable people uncomfortable.

“Uhm, no, fuck you. Stop being a whinny apologetic bitch for people that were legally carrying weapons,” countered Vegas Todd on this same thread. “You are either FOR The United States Constitution or you are AGAINST it.”

Clearly, Starbucks CEO Schultz wanted to steer clear of this entire conflict, particularly in regions where gun violence has recently caused community trauma.

“Our community is still healing and we find it reprehensible that they are picking Newtown to rally,” David Ackert, a spokeman for Newtown Action Alliance told NBC in response to the planned “Starbucks Appreciation Day” in August. “It is disturbing to think that tomorrow night you and your children may be sitting in Starbucks when people carrying guns walk through the door.”  

“For those who oppose “open carry,” we believe the legislative and policy-making process is the proper arena for this debate, not our stores,” Schultz wrote in his open letter. “For those who champion “open carry,” please respect that Starbucks stores are places where everyone should feel relaxed and comfortable. The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers.”


Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).

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