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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Greg Dement, of Kent, shows his opposition to gun-control advocates by wearing a Colt 1911 during a press event at Victor Steinbrueck Park organized by Washington CeaseFire, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and Washington State Million Mom March. Organizers of the event hope to pressure Starbucks into adopting a no-guns policy in all its stores.

Starbucks is asking nicely: Could we please, please stop talking about guns?
The Seattle-based coffee giant was thrust in the middle of a gun-control debate it never wanted to have when it refused a request from gun-control groups to ban guns in its stores this winter.
The company gave short, curt statements as the issue gained traction the last several weeks. Wednesday morning, as gun-control advocates prepared a Seattle news conference in view of the original Starbucks store, Starbucks spoke loud and clear: It's made its decision, so can we please move on?
"Advocacy groups from both sides of this issue have chosen to use Starbucks as a way to draw attention to their positions," Starbucks said in a lengthy statement released Wednesday. "As the public debate continues, we are asking all interested parties to refrain from putting Starbucks or our partners [employees] into the middle of this divisive issue."
That's a tough request, considering how useful the international coffee brand has become to both sides of the debate -- and how aggressively gun-control groups are going after the company.
"Starbucks put out a statement today saying they don't want to be in the middle of this fight. Well, they are. They are the middle," Brian Malte, director of federal and state mobilization at the Brady Campaign, a gun-control group, told reporters at Victor Steinbrueck Park at Pike Place Market. "Why are they in middle? Because they chose -- they chose -- not to bar guns, so far, in their stores."
A gun enthusiast in the crowd yelled in response: "They chose liberty!"
Few even cared about Starbucks' gun policy -- or anyone other company's, for matter -- until January, when word spread that gun-toting advocates of open-carry laws were meeting in coffeehouses and restaurants in California's Bay Area. Seeing an opportunity to further their cause, the Brady Campaign asked two of the businesses -- California Pizza Kitchen and Peet's Coffee and Tea -- to exercise their legal right to ban guns in their stores.
When they complied, the group aimed higher, asking the same of the most powerful name in coffee. Starbucks refused, citing existing safety procedures, but the Brady Campaign persisted.
An online petition the organization circulated this month to demand Starbucks "do the right thing" has collected nearly 30,000 signatures, Malte told the crowd gathered at Wednesday's news conference.
Saying the Brady Campaign is "representing Starbucks customers," he said the group planned to deliver the petitions to Starbucks headquarters Wednesday afternoon.
Gun enthusiast Brick Loomis showed up to the news conference with his two dogs, Ransom and Basil, and a sign: "Thank you Starbucks! Coffee, God, Guns, All-American values."
Loomis, a veteran with 30 years' experience training soldiers to use guns, said he'd fight changes to Washington state's open-carry laws, but not a business's right to set its own policy.
"But they shouldn't be coerced, like they're being coerced by the Brady Campaign," Loomis said. "We're not trying to abridge Starbucks' rights ... They are."
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