Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm still waiting for all the Black folk to open carry in Starbucks

"We are just a bunch of individuals standing up for our rights," said Huffman, a 27-year-old firearms safety instructor who lives in Martinez. "There's this assumption that everyone in open carry is a crazy redneck in a pickup. But look at me - I drive a Prius, and I'm gay.

"We have all sorts of people in this movement."
Can't say I've heard it put quite that way before. I'm still waiting for "all sorts" to include ALL sorts.

In a previous life, I would sometimes have a commute from my Oakland domicile eastward to Concord. This involved weapons, serious weapons, but I'd prefer not to talk about it. Anyway, on this "reverse commute"-- away from SF in the morning, toward it in the late afternoon-- I'd pass beautiful and talented Walnut Creek almost every day. (For those who may doubt this, please know that I mastered the art of the merge at the Caldecott tunnel. For the record, I was a "sidezoomer.")

So I can easily imagine stopping at Starbucks in Walnut Creek for a picker-upper to tide me over.

I'm trying to imagine what the reaction would have been, especially the first time, had a tall black man with no badge walked in with a sidearm and ordered a venti double whatchamacallit. "Yes indeed, barista, bring on the caffeine... Look here, steady as a rock! Wouldn't you rather I had the shakes? Sell me somethin' already!" Good old liberal California... no problem, right?

Well, people have been walking into Starbucks with sidearms in plain view. So far (do I really have to say "So far"?) they seem to be obeying the various "open carry" laws of their particular localities. The latest semi-local story about this recounts the current situation at Walnut Creek:
Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Brad Huffman and Jeff Dunhill were grabbing coffee, as so many do in downtown Walnut Creek. They were at a Starbucks.

In most ways, they didn't stand out, dressed in their slacks and neat shirts, short hair trimly cropped. Heads would have never turned but for one thing - the bulky black pistols strapped to their belts.

Huffman and Dunhill, de facto spokesmen for the Bay Area's burgeoning "open carry" movement, sipped their cups and acted as if packing heat - unloaded, because carrying loaded guns is illegal without a permit - were the most natural thing in the world to do. Which, of course, it's not. In modern California society, at least.

And therein is the essence of their point.

Open-carry advocates are toting unloaded pistols in public as often as they can in an attempt to expand Second Amendment gun rights in this, one of the strictest gun-control states in the nation. Their opponents want to keep the right to pack those pistols in public as limited as possible.

The above article does a pretty good job of summarizing the complexity of the open-carry issue in a folksy way, and I wish it could have resisted the urge to make it a "two-sided" issue at the end. BTW, one of the complexities is this: If concealed weapons are allowed, is there anyplace you can't have a concealed weapon? What's the point of "concealed"-- I mean, why bother-- if you can't have it all the time? From the article:
People who are nervous about seeing guns in public, open-carry advocates say, should help pass laws to allow anyone who can meet qualifications to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon most anywhere - with a few exceptions, such as on most campuses or in courthouses. [emphasis added]
Er, most campuses? Hmm...


Things move around on the Internetses, so here, verbatim, is the current policy from Starbucks:
Mar 03, 2010
Starbucks Position on Open Carry Gun Laws
(updated March 16, 2010)
We recognize that there is significant and genuine passion surrounding the issue of open carry weapons laws. Advocacy groups from both sides of this issue have chosen to use Starbucks as a way to draw attention to their positions.

While we deeply respect the views of all our customers, Starbucks long-standing approach to this issue remains unchanged. We comply with local laws and statutes in all the communities we serve. That means we abide by the laws that permit open carry in 43 U.S. states. Where these laws don’t exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited. The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores.

At the same time, we have a security protocol for any threatening situation that might occur in our stores. Partners are trained to call law enforcement as situations arise. We will continuously review our procedures to ensure the highest safety guidelines are in place and we will continue to work closely with law enforcement.

We have examined this issue through the lens of partner (employee) and customer safety. Were we to adopt a policy different from local laws allowing open carry, 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.

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. As a company, we are extremely sensitive to the issue of gun violence in our society. Our Starbucks family knows all too well the dangers that exist when guns are used irresponsibly and illegally. Without minimizing this unfortunate reality, we believe that supporting local laws is the right way for us to ensure a safe environment for both partners and customers.

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