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Coffee City

Melissa Allison follows the world's biggest coffee-shop chain and other Seattle caffeine purveyors.

March 3, 2010 at 12:47 PM

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Starbucks stuck in crossfire for allowing guns in stores

Posted by Melissa Allison

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence wants Starbucks to ban guns in its stores and delivered 28,000 signatures to its Seattle headquarters Wednesday after a news conference near Pike Place Market.

Before the event, Starbucks issued a release asking not to be put in the middle of the gun controversy.

“They are in the middle,” Brady Campaign official Brian Malte said at the event. “They chose not to bar guns in their stores.”

A few dozen people attended, including gun-rights advocates who regularly interrupted the news conference with cries of “liar!” and “fear monger!”

Dueling posters carried various slogans, including “Espresso shots not shotguns” and “Gun control kills.”

The Brady Campaign, which advocates for gun control, asked Starbucks to ban guns after gun rights advocates appeared at shops in California to make a point about their right to openly carry guns.

Other chains where they met, including Peet’s Coffee & Tea and California Pizza Kitchen, have issued notices that guns are not allowed — either at all or on display — in their shops unless you’re a police officer.

Like many chains including McDonald’s, Starbucks complies with local laws. In Washington, loaded guns can be carried openly.

“The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores,” the coffee chain said in a news release.

Adopting a ban on openly carrying guns would force its employees, which it calls partners, “to ask law-abiding customers to leave our stores, putting our partners in an unfair and potentially unsafe position.”

OpenCarry.org is a Web site started in 2004 that describes itself as “a pro-gun Internet community focused on the right to openly carry properly holstered handguns in daily American life.” More than 27,000 members are registered for its online discussion forum.

Co-founder Mike Stollenwerk of Virginia said member meetings take place all over the country, including in Washington. He said they used to meet at Peet’s Coffee. “That’s where the Open Carry group started to coagulate, because it’s a convenient place to have a coffee and whatever those things they microwave are,” he said.

After Peet’s told them they were not welcome, they went to Starbucks.

Heidi Yewman, president of the Million Mom March chapter in Vancouver, Wash., also spoke at the news conference, saying she is surprised and upset that Starbucks lets people openly carry guns in its stores. The Million Mom March, a nationwide group that opposes gun violence, has merged with the Brady Campaign.

“If someone walks into a Starbucks openly carrying a gun, how am I supposed to know if they’re a good guy or a bad guy?” she said.

At that point, a couple of gun rights activists called, “fear monger!”

Ralph Fascitelli, president of Washington Ceasefire, which works to reduce gun violence in the state, brought up the November shootings by Maurice Clemmons of four police officers at a coffee shop in Parkland. “If these four highly trained professionals with their guns on them cannot fend off a determined killer, what would cause us to believe that the Open Carry crowd can do better?” he asked the group.

After the news conference, several people carrying guns on their hips said that criminals do not openly carry.

“Maurice Clemmons was not openly carrying a gun,” said Curt Davis of Graham, who regularly carries his gun at his side. “If he had been, they would’ve seen it and could have had time to react.”

Jon Holzwarth, of Lake Stevens, said he is not a big advocate of open carry. “I’d rather people not know I carry, because I don’t want people to judge me based on the fact that I own a firearm,” he said.

But he showed up Wednesday with a gun on his hip, “because we’re here at this meeting to protest the protesters for not supporting Starbucks.”

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