Starbucks and the Second Amendment

We need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies violence.
– Barack Obama

Watch out, Starbucks is coming for your guns. Or at least not welcoming them anymore. CEO Howard Schultz announced yesterday that Starbucks is going to ask its customers to stop bringing firearms into its stores. The reason: Starbucks has recently been under a lot of pressure from both gun rights and gun control activists to take a stance on this whole firearm issue. Well, now the company’s stance is known – sort of. About a month ago, Starbucks got caught up in the heat of the debate over firearms thanks to gun owners staging a “Starbucks Appreciation Day” in which gun owners were encouraged to bring their weapons into a Starbucks cafe. Schultz stated that because many gun advocates were showing up to Starbucks stores with their firearms during “Starbucks Appreciation Days” that it was mischaracterizing Starbucks’ view regarding gun control. And then gun control advocates fired back, specifically the Newtown Coalition for Corporate Responsibility. The coalition sent a letter to Schultz calling on him to ban guns in Starbucks stores.

For the record, the company is not issuing an all-out ban on firearms in its stores, but rather a simple request that Schultz hopes its customers will honor. The company has yet to go as far as others such as Whole Foods and Peet’s Coffee and Tea, two firms that have instituted gun bans in their stores. Starbucks and its CEO ultimately believe gun control and the controversy surrounding the Second Amendment should be left up to lawmakers. Either way though, Schultz stated that guns “should not be part of the Starbucks experience.”

So then where do guns come into play exactly? Definitely no pun intended there. Members of the GOP would have us all believe that President Obama is out for one thing: our guns. But gun control is not the same thing as a gun ban. Not once has Obama even alluded to taking away our Second Amendment rights (although I’ll just point out many are quick to forget that the first clause of that amendment concerns a “well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of the free state,” – our Constitution does not just state “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”). Just sayin’.

Even the NRA has given Obama an “F” rating when it comes to his voting record on guns. And just to show both sides here, so has the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Yes, Obama did state that citizens do not need high capacity gun magazines nor does an everyday citizen need access to an assault weapon, but in 2009, he also signed the Credit Card Accountability and Disclosure Act. Doesn’t sound like it has much to do with firearms, but that act included an amendment that allows citizens to carry firearms in national parks. And let’s think about this logically, people are stating that Obama is completely against gun ownership because of his statement about assault weapons and high capacity magazines, but then why did they support Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney? Need I remind you that good ol’ Mitt signed an assault weapons ban, but God forbid we accept Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban of 2013.

In the wake of mass shootings such as the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Obama simply called for a stop to gun violence. The President and Congress all understand that most gun owners are law-abiding, they are responsible beings, that not everyone is planning to shoot up a school or a theater or a mall or a Navy Yard or even a town meeting (Tucson ring any bells there), but our President does want us to feel protected. On Monday during the Navy Yard shooting, the individuals that were killed were civilians, not military members. It amazes me how when these tragedies happen, our nation comes together, political parties, different ethnicities and races – we were all united and knew that we never wanted anything like this to happen again. But why are those moments so fleeting? Why do we need a tragedy to happen to feel the repercussions so deeply? Why are we reactive rather than proactive? Why do some conservatives get all up in arms (maybe a pun intended there) when we bring up tougher and stricter background checks? No lawmaker – Democrat or Republican – is looking to strip our gun ownership rights away. I think the biggest part of it is making sure we are responsible owners. The saddest part, however, is that Congress can never come together to agree on new laws regarding gun control. They’re slow to act, but quick to voice their sympathies. No wonder the public has such a low opinion of our lawmaking body.

Or maybe the most tragic part is that we only really start talking about gun control when these big events happen. But what about all of the “smaller” events? In 2010, 67% of the murders that took place in this country were committed with firearms. Some might say that guns are a means to self-defense (which yes, in some cases, they are), but a study published in 2009 in the American Journal of Public Health found that someone carrying a concealed firearm was 4.5 times more likely to be shot during an attack or assault than an individual without a gun. As of 2009, our population totaled 307 million people, with 300 million firearms being owned throughout the United States. Those of us claiming firearms are useful for self-defense might be interested to know that only 0.5% of households had members that ended up using a gun for self-defense. So who ends up being safer – the gun-haves or the gun-have nots?

Essentially I’m not trying to say we should not have guns – I know many people feel safer with them, I know many use them to go hunting or simply for target practice, but because we as humans are the ones who wield them, they do have the potential to be incredibly dangerous. Tougher background checks does not equate to the stripping away of our Second Amendment rights – the checks purely serve as a means to an end. That end being our safety.

Neither Starbucks nor our President are issuing a ban on guns. For the company, maybe it’s a way to ensure no accidents happen or maybe it’s a way to let those gun-have nots feel comfortable in a public setting. Probably both. And for our President, maybe his opinion on gun control and better background checks is his way of living up to, what he calls, our “deep obligation” to try to prevent acts of violence. In the end though, more guns does not seem to be the correct answer for our society.

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