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About Starbucks and “Open Carry”

Another “ripped from the headlines” story is the recent report that Starbucks has finally gotten its fill of open carry advocates making the Starbucks coffee shops a battle ground for the pro-gun v. anti-gun fight. Starbucks’ President Howard Schultz issued a press release asking people to discontinue carrying guns openly in their stores. If you follow the news you’ll know that over the past year the open carry wing of the gun-owning community has made it a point to pick Starbucks as a rallying spot, because Starbucks refused to prohibit openly carrying guns wherever local laws allow the practice. I, for one, am a staunch advocate of concealed carry and, in addition, a stanch opponent of the practice of open carry, unless no other legal option exists. I can count on one hand the number of times in my life I have openly carried in public, and I have been carrying a gun for a long, long time.

There are two primary reasons why I believe open carry is a BAD idea. The first reason is that the practice gives away a tactical advantage in an altercation. I would like the option of going about my business without being identified as having a gun. If a violent altercation comes my way, I have options as to how to handle it. Surprise is one of the greatest tactics one can use in a fight. I don't want to give that advantage away.

The second reason is that I don't like to draw attention to myself. If I have an exposed gun on my hip, it is like having a glowing neon sign on my back saying “LOOK AT ME.” There have been a few cases in the news lately about people who have been openly carrying a pistol being disarmed. Just today, I read a story about someone being robbed who was openly carrying. Put yourself in the place of an armed robber. If you start a robbery and discover that one of your targeted victims is in fact armed, what are you going to do?

Now, in a few locations, open carry is a commonplace occurrence. On a recent teaching trip to Arizona, I decided to open carry to dinner one night, with my host, who was also openly carrying his pistol. I suspect I was just about the only person in the restaurant who was aware of the Smith and Wesson Model 13 on my hip. I was watching for reactions of others around me, but I didn't see any. By contrast, if the whole class would have come in for dinner with AR-15s slung across their shoulders that would have been an entirely different matter. I suspect police might have been called.

I will let you in on a little secret. I get nervous around people who I don't know when they are openly carrying guns. Why? Because I know how stupid some people can be, and it heightens my awareness. In this day and age of mass shootings, if I saw a person walking down the street with an AR-15, I would likely call the police myself. When these open carry zealots do exactly that, they are only making matters worse for the gun culture. I cringe when I see the gun rallies at our state capitol, which always seem to include the bubbas with their shotguns and rifles slung over their shoulders. If you want to make a real statement, perhaps you should wear a 1776 period costume and a carry a replica muzzleloader. The point would be better made. Better yet, how about just donating a hundred bucks to the NRA-ILA or Second Amendment Foundation? At least there, you will know some good came of your activism.

Actions have consequences. The open carry crowd, by turning Starbucks into a battleground in the gun wars, has done the rest of us a disservice. The open carry crowd owes the rest of us an apology. I will wait for it with some degree of skepticism that it will ever come.