For most companies, the prospect of thousands of customers thronging its stores to celebrate its corporate policies would be regarded as ambrosia from the retail gods. But it’s hard to imagine that Starbucks sees this week’s spontaneous “Customer Appreciation Day” by gun-toting Second Amendment absolutists as quite such a blessing.
The Seattle-based caffeine chain has been the target of gun safety advocates for some time over its refusal to adopt a corporate policy that would ban patrons from carrying loaded guns into its stores. That’s why gun rights groups exhorted their supporters to holster up and pop into their local Starbucks on Friday to order frappuccinos.
Thus far, everyone seems to be acting within their obvious constitutional rights. Starbucks is following applicable state gun laws — including “open carry” regulations – which permit customers to bring weapons into stores. Opponents of the idea of sipping lattes next to folks carrying Bushmaster AR-15′s also have the right to voice their dissent.
Still, the economic downside for Starbucks may be much greater than the company has let on. The current furor could explode into a nationwide call for a boycott — something that many gun control organizations are now publicly embracing, particularly following an insensitive, though legal, call by one gun rights group for its members to parade their weapons at the Starbucks in Newtown, Connecticut – where 20 children and six educators were massacred in an elementary school last December by a gunman wielding an assault weapon with high-capacity magazines.
The truth is, Starbucks and its shareholders may have more to lose than gain by resisting the adoption of a policy like the one it has for its own corporate headquarters that asks gun owners to check them at the door.