The earlier policy did not seem like a bold stance. It is not uncommon for businesses to abide by local laws. You don’t see large groups of clowns descending on Banks of America to celebrate the fact that Bank of America has no stated policy against clowns. Gun owners, on the other hand, took the absence of a ban as an open invitation to celebrate Open Carry Day at Starbucks. This was not exactly what Starbucks seemed to be expecting. Now they have a stated policy. According to a letter from CEO Howard Schultz:
To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. Some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction, including soliciting and confronting our customers and partners.
For these reasons, today we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas—even in states where “open carry” is permitted—unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.
This is just like every change in office policy ever. You thought this was common sense and you had no need to specify it, but then Anthony has one too many at the office party and now you have an official policy asking everyone Please Not To Sit Lewdly On The Photocopier, Then Climb Out Onto The Window Ledge And Try To Capture A Pigeon While Crying.
Starbucks has now upgraded from Respecting Local Law to respectfully requesting that you leave your gun at home.
You are still allowed to bring your ballista, tubs of boiling oil, and saber. You can bring your hunting knife and your chain mail, your full jousting equipment and faithful steed, if you can get him to stand patiently outside while you type away at your screenplay. Just, no guns.
And if you needed an explanation, Starbucks even offers one. “From the beginning, our vision at Starbucks has been to create a “third place” between home and work where people can come together to enjoy the peace and pleasure of coffee and community. Our values have always centered on building community rather than dividing people, and our stores exist to give every customer a safe and comfortable respite from the concerns of daily life.” This is a little more complicated than the rationale I would have suggested, which is, “Why are you bringing a gun to a coffee shop?”
The idea that a no-guns-in-the-coffee-shop-please policy might lead to a loss of custom depresses me. Is this the road we’re headed down? “Where should we get coffee?” “Depends. Where can I bring my lethal weapon?” “Why are you carrying a lethal weapon?” “I have concluded that this offers the best protection against other people with lethal weapons.” “How about nobody brings a lethal weapon to the coffee shop?” “But then only bad people will bring lethal weapons.” “Is the only alternative to Only Dangerous People Carrying Weapons, Everyone Carrying Weapons All The Time? Do we really want to carry this fear with us? Even to get coffee? Even to the grocery store? Is this the kind of world in which we want to live?” “Okay, how about Dunkin Donuts?”
I realize that lately I seem to be turning into a corporate shill who only writes about Starbucks, but I am not. I have been doing this for years, completely uncompensated. A brief Googling will reveal that one time I suggested as a “money-saving tip for interns” that if you bought Starbucks coffee in the morning you could get a dollar off Starbucks coffee in the afternoon, which as a money-saving tip is terrible but as an explanation of why I have no saved money checks out pretty well. My nest egg at this point is an incomplete of Star Wars Mountain Dew cans that I bought when Episode I came out, thinking, I guess, that they would accrue in value? I hope so. Only a couple of them have Jar Jar on them, so that’s something, right?
Starbucks is indeed a median place. And the baristas there already have enough to deal with, as Schultz points out, without having to ask individual customers to remove their guns: people who order complicated triple-whip-venti things with extra shots; that one gentleman in the corner in a strange hat who is compiling a detailed hand-written account of How To Keep The Aliens From Siphoning Agent Orange Into Our Well-Water; people who, when asked their names, reply, “My Name Is Jean Valjean” in ringing tones*; being called baristas in the first place.
As social initiatives attempted by Starbucks go, this is not the worst of them. It is simply a polite request to customers not to bring weapons to a coffee shop, which seems fairly straightforward as requests go, as opposed to that time they decided to write, “Come Together” on orders near the Capital to see if it would fix the debt ceiling. That definitely wasn’t going to work.
This is what happens when everything gets politicized, from your coffee (what does it think about gun rights?) to your chicken sandwich (tell me its opinions on everything!). But what happened to common sense? I miss the days when you didn’t need an explicit policy for this, when even if you could bring a gun to a coffee shop, it was assumed you wouldn’t, because — it’s a coffee shop.