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Friday, September 20, 2013

Starbucks New Policy Does Not Cause Gun Groups Concern

Story first appeared in USATODAY.

The nation's largest gun rights groups have this early response to Starbucks no longer "welcoming" guns in its stores: Yawn.

Sure, the blogosphere has been on fire over the past day, with plenty of individual Twitter and Facebook posts slamming the policy shift by Starbucks. One angry Twitter follower named Victor Morton summed it up this way in his tweet to Starbucks: "I say two words that rhyme with 'duck stew.' "

But even with CEO Howard Schultz asking gun owners to leave their guns at home, several key groups contacted on Thursday that represent gun owners have not called for any actions against the world's largest coffee chain.

No boycotts. No mass protests planned. (The largest such group, the National Rifle Association, did not respond to several phone calls and e-mails on Thursday.) Starbucks says it heard nothing from any pro-gun groups as of late Thursday afternoon.

"It's business as usual," says Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson. "We don't expect to satisfy any of the extremes," he adds.

But, for the most part, gun advocacy groups had little negative to say on Thursday.

"I think most of the firearms community is going to keep doing whatever they're doing," says Dave Workman, a spokesman for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, a non-profit advocacy group that claims 650,000 members and supporters. "The majority (of gun owners) are saying: 'This is their business decision, and if that's what they want, that's the way it is.'"

What's more, says Workman, "There are quite a few people in the firearms community who say some of our own guys brought this on themselves."

Other gun advocacy groups took a similar stance.

"We are not calling for any action on our part," says Erich Pratt, spokesman for Gun Owners of America, a non-profit gun advocacy group that claims 375,000 members. "Our understanding is that there is really no change to the policy. He's making a request — not an outright ban."

Some gun advocates may be disappointed in Starbucks, says Mike Stollenwerk, co-founder of OpenCarry.org, an advocacy group, "but I'm not," he says, in an e-mail. "I would hope the gun carriers react to Starbucks' new non-policy by continuing to patronize Starbucks — while armed."

But one university professor who specializes in corporate strategy says that Starbucks executives should not rest easy. "They will eventually face some push-back," says David Primo, associate professor of political science at University of Rochester. "They won't remain unscathed."

Everything, he says, depends on what happens with the issue on social media over the next several weeks.

It doesn't really matter what the organized special interests groups do — or don't do, Primo says. Rather, he says, it's all about grass-roots actions. "What matters is what the consumers who can organize themselves in social media do."