Sometimes, the most civil response is no response at all. That was the option Starbucks wisely chose when the company recently found itself in the middle of a confrontation between handgun opponents and "open carry" advocates.
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Editorial: Starbucks averts gun fight with civility
06:18 PM CDT on Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Sometimes, the most civil response is no response at all. That was the option Starbucks wisely chose when the company recently found itself in the middle of a confrontation between handgun opponents and "open-carry" advocates. No matter which side Starbucks took, the choice seemed destined to provoke outrage and widen the nation's political chasm.
As some gun-rights advocates suggested, Starbucks was the perfect place to stage an open-carry demonstration because of its reputation as a bastion for laid-back, left-leaning latte-swillers. But it was the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence that initially forced the issue in a Feb. 4 letter to the chairman of Starbucks, accusing the company of "evasion" for not banning firearms in its stores. Gun-rights advocates took that as an invitation to strap on holsters and get caffeinated.
A showy confrontation spread around the nation in early March, making Starbucks the place to see and be seen for protesters on both sides of the issue. In Virginia, one man exercised his open-carry rights by displaying an antique shotgun at a Starbucks entrance. This is an issue of great sensitivity for Starbucks, which lost three employees in 1997 when a gunman opened fire in a Washington, D.C., store.
Starbucks stores suddenly were on the front pages of American newspapers and the focus of intense television-news coverage. The display of firepower clearly didn't fit with the image Starbucks has cultivated over the years. Instead of taking the bait, however, Chairman Howard Shultz declared that this was a matter for local, state and federal lawmakers to decide. Starbucks says it is not inclined to oust law-abiding customers from its stores.
Today, what we have is a non-issue. What could have become a divisive confrontation of Tea Party durability has, instead, quietly drifted into obscurity. Despite threats of repercussions from customers, Starbucks emerged largely unfazed, with its stock at a 52-week high.
People say and do provocative things all the time. The other side always has the choice of reacting with anger and ratcheting up the confrontation. But civility sometimes means not taking the bait and giving cooler heads a chance to prevail. Starbucks chose to focus the steam where it belongs – at the cappuccino bar.
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