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Starbucks’ gun policy brews ‘grande’ protest

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America will boycott Starbucks around the country Saturday because of the company's policy that complies with states' gun-carrying laws.
/ Source: MSNBC TV

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America will boycott Starbucks around the country Saturday because of the company's policy that complies with states' gun-carrying laws.

A walk sign flashes in Times Square in front of a Starbucks location in New York on March 8, 2011. The company allows its stores to comply with the local gun-carrying laws of each state. (Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Mothers across the country this weekend will demand their coffee with milk, sugar…and gun sense.

“Skip Starbucks Saturday” is an initiative by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to boycott the coffee chain’s policy of allowing its customers to carry guns into their shops. Members are urging the public to get their caffeine fix somewhere other than Starbucks on Saturday the 24th; to sign a petition to ban guns in the stores, to post a photo of themselves enjoying a non-Starbucks coffee, and donate the money saved to the group’s mission.

“It’s intended to send a message, which is moms expect Starbucks to take the safety of our children and families as seriously as we do,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told MSNBC. “Starbucks put themselves out there as being good corporate actors and say that they are an aggressive, responsible company, yet they have horrible lax gun policies.”

Starbucks currently allows its stores to comply with the local laws and statutes of each state, said Jaime Riley, a spokesperson for Starbucks. There are about 7,000 company-owned stores throughout the country, all of which follow a mission statement that includes a goal “to inspire and nurture the human spirit.”

“We believe the issue of gun violence is serious, but something our elected officials should address,” Riley told MSNBC. “We’ve had a long-standing approach to open carry, and it is to apply to open laws to the communities we serve.”

Local businesses are allowed to designate their own rules aside from the state laws, according to the New York Police Department.

Members currently have almost 15,000 signatures on their petition. Watts said she will hand-deliver the document to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in Seattle, Wash., once they reach 25,000 supporters.

Other Americans organized “Open Carry Saturday at Starbucks” in response to show their support for the company’s gun policy. Pro-gun activists belonging to Open Carry South Dakota last month carried handguns, semi-automatic rifles, and shotguns into a Starbucks in Sioux Falls.

But the company in June banned people from smoking within 25 feet of its shops despite state policies that haven’t enacted the rule.

“We do look at them as completely different topics,” Riley said about Starbucks’ smoking and gun policies. “We believe our distinct approach is to help us ensure a safe environment for both our employees and customers.”

“They’re picking and choosing when they’re going to follow these state laws and policies,” Watts said.

Watts established the Indiana-based group one day after last year’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then, the mothers have put pressure on legislators to enact gun-control laws. They held more than 20 marches and rallies around the country before the Senate’s vote in April on bipartisan background checks legislation. The bill, which would have made it more difficult to buy guns from private sellers and on the Internet, failed 54-46.

The grassroots movement has grown in eight months to include more than 100,000 members with chapters in all 50 states. The mothers’ goals include requiring background checks for all gun purchases, banning assault weapons that hold more than 10 rounds, and tracking the sale of large quantities of ammunition.

Some of the group’s mothers are owners of firearms and have been affected by gun violence, but others simply have a desire to be an activist, Watts said.

“I have never been affected by gun violence, but I’m doing this because I don’t want to be,” said Watts, who is the mother of five children ranging in ages from 12 to 24.

Families of victims killed in Newtown, Conn., have also called upon Starbucks to change its gun policies, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The individuals’ request followed a confrontation last month between supporters of gun-control legislation and pro-gun advocates about the company’s policy at a Newtown Starbucks.

“We don’t want to ban all guns,” Watts said. “We certainly believe in the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, but that doesn’t mean you should bring your loaded assault weapon into Starbucks.”