Derrick Z. Jackson

Want a Glock with your latte?

By Derrick Z. Jackson
Globe Columnist / March 9, 2010

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IF STARBUCKS wants to run Wild West caffeine saloons, the least it can do is provide gunsmoking and nongunsmoking sections.

The coffee mega chain, which made the Fortune 500 by convincing millions of us that $3 coffee is more critical than water for morning hydration, caved into a grassroots campaign of gun owners who are testing “open-carry’’ laws by dropping in at popular establishments and flaunting their firearms.

Some companies, like the California Pizza Kitchen and Peet’s Coffee, have responded to these posses by telling the open-carry forces to go take their guns and holsters somewhere else. A spokesperson for California Pizza told the Wall Street Journal, “We are concerned that the open display of firearms would be particularly disturbing to children and their parents.’’

But Starbucks, hiding behind states’ rights in places such as California, Virginia, and its corporate home state of Washington, is offering no resistance. In a press release last week, the company noted that 43 states have open-carry laws on the books. “Were we to adopt a policy different from local laws allowing open carry,’’ the company said, “we would be forced to require our partners to ask law-abiding customers to leave our stores, putting our partners in an unfair and potentially unsafe position.’’

To wit, Starbucks further whined that it is innocently caught in the middle. Asking people to suspend the common knowledge that companies of course set restrictive policies all the time for their premises - like, “no-shirt, no-shoes, no service’’ - the company said, “The political, polity and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores . . . as the public debate continues, we are asking all interested parties to refrain from putting Starbucks or our partners into the middle of this divisive issue.’’

I do not know about you, but I suddenly became even more a fan of Peet’s than I was before and as far as I am concerned, I can go without Starbucks the rest of my life as long as it plays the cowardly bartender. This movement has not come yet to Massachusetts, but you never know, with the advocacy organization saying that while Massachusetts is not a traditional open carry state, “it is not a crime for Class A license holders to open carry.’’

In a statement yesterday, the state Department of Public Safety confirmed as much. “There is no prohibition . . . for a person with a license to carry firearms . . . as long as it is in the possession and control of the license holder, and not used in a manner that constitutes a crime.’’

In a new book, “The Insecure American,’’ editors Catherine Besteman and Hugh Gusterson write that fear “has fueled a growing fortress mentality among the American public and the government . . . The obsessive focus on securitizing the landscape means turning American neighborhoods, schools, transportation centers, shopping malls, public spaces, and government buildings into fortresses surrounded by walls and monitored by surveillance systems.’’

Or, as in the case of Starbucks, allowing public spaces to be turned into fortresses for the individual. It may be a coincidence, but shares of Starbucks, in the week the controversy hit the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, has fluctuated at around $23 a share. Peet’s went up from about $37 a share to about $39. Until Starbucks has a nongunsmoking section, I hope to maintain those ticker trends by heading over to Peet’s. I prefer my coffee black: no cream, no sugar, no Glock.

Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at

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