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Starbucks’ Gun Request and Civility

Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 6, 2013

Two weeks ago Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz took a risky step for any business announcing a quasi-political position for the company on a hot-button topic.  Specifically, Schultz requested that patrons not bring guns into Starbucks’ coffee shops.

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe published an editorial on the unexpectedly muted response by advocates of gun rights to Schultz’s request.  Jacoby points to a Quinnipiac University poll that found 66% of respondents called Schultz’s decision a good one with even more including gun rights advocates indicated that the request will not affect their Starbucks’ patronage habits.

Since gun free zones tend to be the areas gun carriers with bad tend to inflict their heinous acts, I am not sure that this public request by Schultz is appropriate.  At the same time I believe that private businesses should have wide latitude in expressing political positions just as consumers should be able to boycott any organization whose position they oppose.

The Left and anti-gun lobbyists who applaud Starbucks’ CEO’s request should also be willing to accept businesses that proffer opposing views on hot-button issues.  As Jacoby correctly concludes:

“If a traditionally Christian florist wishes to politely decline the offer to arrange the flowers for a same-sex wedding, why shouldn’t she be free to do so?  If a passionately liberal shopkeeper courteously asks a customer not to come in with a T-shirt proclaiming “Impeach Obama,” or a conservative landlord says he’d prefer not to rent to an unmarried cohabiting couple, would it be so terrible to shrug and let it go?  If a restaurant owner has no objection to letting customers smoke, couldn’t diners accept the house rule gracefully and go elsewhere if they want a smoke-free meal?

Under current law, scenarios like these are often grounds for a lawsuit or prosecution. Must that be the case?  Most merchants are not in the habit of turning customers away, and in general commerce operates to break down bigotry and irrational discrimination.  But life isn’t always so tidy.  Sometimes there are rifts between a private company’s idea of what’s good for business and other people’s idea of what all right-thinking people should believe.  The world won’t end if everyone doesn’t march in lockstep.

The Starbucks non-uproar is a reminder that we could do with a little more live-and-let-live in this country.  The hardliners on divisive issues may always be spoiling for a fight.  They needn’t be encouraged to wage their battles with other people’s livelihood.”

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