Starbucks' Gun Gambit: Why It Might Work

Starbucks CEO put himself in the spotlight when he asked patrons not to bring in guns. Will that spare their local stores from the controversy?

Credit: Gary Jeanfaivre
Credit: Gary Jeanfaivre
On Tuesday, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz issued “a respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.”

Reaction from gun rights activists was swift. Cam Edwards, who hosts a radio show at NRA News, wrote an article called, “Why I’m Done With Starbucks (At Least For Now)”

Starbucks may be fine with losing a few gun rights supporters if it means removing the battle from actual Starbucks cafes. (As of 2012, there were over 18,000 locations across the country.) In his letter, Schultz focused specifically on the disruption in stores: “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.”

Schultz is talking about scenes like those in Newtown, CT, home to the school shooting last December that restarted the national debate about guns. In August, a group of gun owners planned an “Appreciation Day” at a Starbucks about one mile from Sandy Hook Elementary. It grew so controversial the store closed down early to get activists to leave. That was a situation local store employees (and customers) had to deal with. 

Is Schultz's statement alienating gun rights supporters? Certainly, but he’s also shifting their focus from taking local action to taking action against him and the company as a whole. Chick-fil-A flourishes in that type of environment. 

Of course, it's possible that Schultz's statement might galvanize consumption from gun control advocates. (Kim Parker Russell of Moms Demand Action for Guns Sense in America told Patch she “had the hugest Venti double soy latte you can imagine” on Wednesday.)

But it's more likely he just wants his customers to be comfortable. Otherwise, what's the point in paying $5 for a drink?

Does the Starbucks announcement make you more or less likely to buy from them? Let us know in the comments or in a blog post.
Newtown Effect September 20, 2013 at 02:18 AM
A person who would be inclined has just received an open invite to go to SBX to shoot others. We all know that the majority of legal and Constitutional gun carriers will now not frequent SBX, essentially rendering SBX into a Gun Free Zone, so the welcome mat has just been rolled out for a madman with evil intent.
Michael Beason September 20, 2013 at 07:40 AM
The last sentence in this article says it all. Whats the point in paying 5 dollars for a cup of coffee?
Tom Norton September 20, 2013 at 11:44 AM
It looks like "Its a Grind" or "Peet's Coffee" from now on. Starbucks is now an OFFICIAl Nuts- free-to-kill-everyone kind of coffee shop.
Thomas Paine September 20, 2013 at 01:15 PM
We spend an awful amount of time debating and yelling at one another about this but the reality is, random rampage shootings are incredibly infrequent, especially when considered in the context of any single person being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Spread over millions of people, the odds of any single person being a random victim of a rampage killer is infinitesimally small. Maybe instead of arguing about such minor risks, we actually raise the discussion to the impact of mental illness, violent media, misogynistic music, video games, psychotropic drugs, the "war against boys" and absent fathers have on our young men who are most likely to be rampage killers? That would be time better spent in my opinion and we are likely to find far more common ground there than arguing about Starbucks corporate policies. Agreed?
catch22 September 20, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Businesses can do what they want. They may lose a few hundred customers but they will always gain them back. Some resterants in Texas have has signs at their doors to leave the firearms in the car. This isn't anything new, only because there were recent shootings.


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