James Gill: The right to guns and caffeine

By JAMES GIll

Starbucks boss Howard Schultz runs the “most dangerous” coffee shops in America because he has “respectfully” requested that customers do not pack heat.

So says state Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City. No legislator is crazier about the Second Amendment than he.

Thompson has called for a boycott of Starbucks and is organizing armed klatches at competing establishments.

Sadly, he did not find a warm welcome at the first one. After Thompson put in a brief appearance at its Bossier City restaurant, Chick Fil A issued a statement dissociating itself from his cause.

The only events scheduled that day were senior bingo and a child’s birthday party, so maybe a bunch of guys toting semi-automatic weapons would not have been a good fit at that.

If what Thompson styles his “Guns and Coffee” sessions prove a hit, what next?

Right now it is illegal to be rodded up in bars, so Thompson presumably figures they would be safer if the ban were lifted.

“Guns and Beer” would make a stirring slogan.

The current sessions may well pack ’em in. Not only will Thompson buy supporters a coffee, but they can register to win an “engraved 200 years of Louisiana commemorative 12-gauge Browning shotgun.” Thompson’s gun-loving organization, Defend Louisiana, will make the presentation when the legislature convenes next year.

Still, “Guns and Coffee” is not going to bankrupt Starbucks, and Thompson’s displeasure seems absurdly overdone. If Schultz had gone so far as to ban firearms, many of his customers would no doubt have applauded his good sense.

It is not so easy to relax when the guy at the next table has a gun on his hip.

Schultz opted not to lay down the law, preferring the polite request, although he had been sorely tried. “Pro-gun activists,” he wrote in an open letter, “have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called ‘Starbucks Appreciation Days’ that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of ‘open carry.’ To be clear, we do not want these events in our stores.”

One of the reasons Schultz gave for stopping short of a ban was the peril for employees who would have to enforce it.

You’d want more than Starbucks pay to throw an armed redneck out the door.

Thompson should have checked with Chick-Fil-A before he decided to seek a haven there, because its position is not a million miles from Starbucks’. Although customers are not asked to check their hardware, Thompson had been advised to take his campaign elsewhere, Chick-Fil-A Vice President Carrie Kurlander said, and company policy is “not to host political events.”

But Thompson reserves his ire for Starbucks, urging coffee drinkers to switch allegiance to “small business owners who share our love of our Louisiana heritage, the great outdoors and join in my efforts to defend our right to protect our families.”

It may be true that Schultz is lukewarm on our Louisiana heritage, but then he was born in Brooklyn, and Starbucks is headquartered in Seattle.

As for the great outdoors, guns are certainly more likely to prove useful there than in a coffee shop, but it is impossible to infer from his open letter what Schultz thinks about hunting and fishing.

The gun freaks will evidently drone on forever about protecting their families, and it is safe to assume that Schultz is not in favor of putting kids at hazard either.

Evidently he just does not share Thompson’s view that the best way to keep coffee shops safe is to have a clientele bristling with weapons.

Second Amendment absolutists seem to go in constant fear. If they can believe the federal government is about to seize their guns, it makes perfect sense to keep looking over their shoulders as they sip their lattes.

The rest of us are more like to regard the Starbucks boycott as a tempest in a teapot.

James Gill can be reached at jgill@theadvocate.com