Starbucks, loaded guns and lattes

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(CNN) — Starbucks lauds itself as a company committed to operating responsibly and ethically, and many of its policies reflect a strong corporate conscience. But when it comes to responsible gun policy, Starbucks has lost its moral compass.

Starbucks refuses to ban loaded guns from its coffee shops in the 43 states that allow people to openly carry loaded weapons.

As mothers, we wonder why the company is willing to put children and families in so much danger. Nobody needs to be armed to get a cup of coffee. And that’s why thousands of moms across the nation are asking Starbucks to put the safety of its customers first.

We’ve started a petition asking Starbucks to ban guns from its stores. In response, Starbucks has referred concerned moms to a statement on its website, a statement last updated in March 2010, about 90,000 American gun deaths ago. The statement reads, “The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores.”

Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson recently told Seattle Weekly that it is a legal strategy. “In communities that permit open carry, we abide by local laws. Where these laws don’t exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited.”

Moms don’t want a gun debate with our coffee either. But when children are shot in schools, in movie theaters and even at Fourth of July parades, we can no longer keep the debate in the places where they “belong.” As the debate on guns spreads to town hall meetings nationwide in August, do we really have to have one in Starbucks too?

Starbucks’ refusal to ban guns from its stores has made it a nationwide venue for pro-gun rallies, where customers toting loaded weapons gather over coffee. There have even been accidental shootings: earlier this year a woman shot another customer when she dropped her purse and a loaded weapon inside discharged. A pro-gun site called I Love Guns and Coffee sells a coin that looks like the Starbucks logo, except the mermaid is wielding handguns. On Sunday, for example, 60 pro-gun activists carried handguns, semi-automatic rifles and shotguns into a Starbucks in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Starbucks claims its open carry policy simply follows state laws and local ordinances. However, the company is willing to overlook those in other instances; it recently announced a smoking ban within 25 feet of any store.

Why is Starbucks willing take a public health stand on smoking, but not gun violence, which kills more than 55 children and teens a week in America? Since when is second-hand smoke more dangerous than second-hand bullets?

Starbucks also claims that banning guns from its stores would put its employees in a “potentially unsafe position” if they had to ask a gun-wielding customer to leave. This alleged concern has not stopped other companies — including Disney, California Pizza Kitchen, AMC Theaters, Toys R Us, and even Starbucks competitor Peet’s Coffee & Tea — from prohibiting guns in their stores in states where open carry is legal. In fact, these companies have banned guns in order to keep employees and customers safe.

Starbucks bans guns from its corporate headquarters in Seattle, where open carry is perfectly legal. This same protection should be afforded to the millions of unarmed customers Starbucks serves each week.

An overwhelming majority of Americans want common-sense gun reforms. But it’s not just Congress and state legislatures that impact society; business policies also affect our safety. Shame on Congress for failing to act, but that’s no excuse for companies like Starbucks to fail to lead.

We never saw ourselves becoming activists. But like so many mothers on December 14th, we were horrified by the Sandy Hook shootings. The realization that our country’s lax gun laws led to the massacre of 20 innocent children shook both of us to the core. As mothers, we cannot and will not abide politics and policies that needlessly put our children and other children in danger.

Moms Demand Action has become a rallying point for mothers across the nation who refuse to tolerate the inaction over the epidemic of gun violence. We will not stop until gun reforms and responsible policies are in place at the federal level, in our states and at American businesses.

We have the most important reason of all for never backing down — our kids. Risking their safety isn’t worth a nonfat misto at Starbucks. Women make the vast majority of spending decisions in America; you can be sure we’ll spend those dollars with companies that value the safety of our families.

Editor’s note: Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Kate Beck is the head of the organization’s Seattle chapter. The organization was created to build support for what they term common-sense gun reforms.

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