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How Starbucks became the darling of American gun owners

In states that allow open carry for licensed gun owners, Starbucks has refused to put up signs in protest – though some other businesses have. Gun-control advocates have started a boycott, but gun owners are answering with a 'buycott.' 

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The National Gun Victims Council counters that powerful gun lobbies, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), more than popular will are what's behind the loosening of gun laws and policies.

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There's no record of anyone being hurt at a Starbucks store by a legal carrying customer, but the brand has had brushes with violence, including the deaths of three people during an armed robbery of a Starbucks near Washington, D.C., in 1997.  In January 2010, the Hell's Angels and Vagos biker gangs fought with weapons that included ball peen hammers over rights to hang out at a Santa Cruz Starbucks.

"Only in Santa Cruz would you have biker wars over who's going to control pumpkin spice lattes," Santa Cruz Deputy Police Chief Steve Clark told Reuters at the time.

Companies that have a broad customer base, including Starbucks, have had to carefully gauge public sentiment when deciding whether or not to post against guns. When the grocery chain Harris Teeter put up “no gun” signs in North Carolina in 2010, Grass Roots North Carolina, a state gun-rights lobbying group, threatened a boycott. The same day, the chain began taking down many of the signs.

“So far, Starbucks is dealing with it smartly,” says Paul Valone, director of Grass Roots North Carolina. “Yeah, they were a Seattle-based, trendy, slightly artsy-crafty chain to begin with, but they have correctly assessed that they're now in middle America and they don't want to offend the sensibilities of middle America in order to pacify a few left-leaning gun-control supporters.”

Public reaction to the Starbucks boycott was mixed on the Opposing Views website, which asked readers to submit comments on its Facebook page.

“So sick and tired if this gun garbage,” reader Lynn Gleason wrote. “If you're someone who is feeling the need to tote around a gun everywhere, ask yourself, 'What it is you're so afraid of,' not, 'Which other pointless location can I suddenly feel the need to be armed?' ”

Reader Paula Qualls Gurley disagreed. “I didn't go today, but will go twice tomorrow. Sick of those who try to extort companies who don't toe their 'line.' I don't own a gun but I don't need the antigun lobby in my business.”

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