The Starbucks siren suddenly has a gun to her head.
An advocacy group has called for "Skip Starbucks Saturday" this weekend — a nationwide boycott on Aug. 24, to pressure the coffee giant to amend its current policy, which allows customers to carry loaded guns into Starbucks stores where permitted by state law.
"Many moms are unaware that if they take their children to Starbucks, their children may be standing next to a customer who has a loaded weapon," says Shannon Watts, founder of the non-profit group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She says the group hopes to gather 25,000 signatures to ban guns at all U.S. Starbucks stores. She hopes to personally present the signatures to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.
The boycott is an attempt to place the world's biggest coffee chain — which prides itself on consumer advocacy — in the middle of one of the nation's hot-button social issues. Most major companies work to steer clear of such issues for fear of antagonizing customers. The boycott is a bid to force Starbucks to re-think its current policy, which it has previously said is gun-neutral, but which anti-gun groups have tagged as pro-gun.
"Our long-standing stance has been to comply with local laws in the communities we serve," says Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson. "We believe gun violence is a serious issue and something our elected officials should address."
Hutson says Starbucks doesn't want its stores to be used as "staging grounds" for either side of the issue. Even then, he says, "our policy is not changing."
The move comes less than two weeks after gun rights advocates nationally sponsored a headline-grabbing "Starbucks Appreciation Day," in which Starbucks customers toted guns into Starbucks stores, where permitted, including the Starbucks store in Newtown, Conn., which opted to close early that day. Critics dubbed the day "Bring Your Gun to Starbucks Day."
Starbucks currently allows guns in stores in 43 states — where states permit. But Starbucks has the legal right to prohibit firearms in its stores "in the interest of customer safety," says Kim Russell, national director of outreach for Moms Demand Action.
In May, a female customer at a Starbucks store in St. Petersburg, Fla., was accidentally shot in the leg when another woman dropped her purse — which carried a gun that discharged.
"Starbucks is a progressive company that does a lot for the community," says Russell. "That's why we hold them to a higher standard."
She notes that Starbucks employees are not permitted to carry guns at work — even in states that allow them to do so.
But because Starbucks has not come down squarely against folks bringing guns into its stores, gun owners have increasingly been using Starbucks as gathering places, Russell says. "We're just not feeling safe there anymore," she says.