So, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz screwed the pooch at the shareholder’s meeting re: the whole gun control thing. Maybe. After a sensible statement about the logistical issues surrounding the idea of asking employees to frisk customers for firearms (or some such thing), Schultz apparently shot himself in the [metaphorical] foot. “I do want to clarify something you said that is not right,” he told one gun ban-favoring shareholder. “You can’t walk into Starbucks with a loaded gun. So that’s not the issue. The issue is, the law allows you to walk in with a weapon that people can see that is unloaded.” Needless to say, Paul WE CAN’T LEAVE STARBUCKS ALONE Helmke of The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence was all over Mr. Coffee’s statement like a cheap suit. Writing in his home-away-from-home, Helmke once again wore out his welcome.
The HuffPo headline—Urgent Message to Starbucks CEO: Mr. Schultz, The Guns Are Loaded—certainly wins the Unintentional Irony of the Month Award. And Helmke rightly points out that Schultz got it badly wrong.
Mr. Schultz, you were wrong. Someone on your staff may have misled you, or maybe they don’t understand how weak our gun laws are in this country, but only two states, California and Utah, require that “open carried” guns be unloaded. In 44 states, including your home state of Washington, the guns not only can be loaded, but almost certainly are loaded.
The question is, is Schultz uniformed or was he referring JUST to California, where an Open Carry advocacy group met with its unloaded guns not drawn? It’s hard to say without a full transcript. But the coffee king wouldn’t be the first left coaster to mistake California for America (if you know what I mean).
Anyway, true to form, Helmke reveals a stunning lack of skirmishing skills. Rather than bank a clear victory, consolidate and wait for the next strategic opportunity, the head of The Brady Bunch aims his usual rhetorical blunderbuss at the true believers and lets rip with a conflation of tenuously connected anecdotes and, well, whatever “waving the bloody shirt” analogy I can think of (later).
I was shocked by the mistake, but also saddened by my recollections of how many times a similar phrase – “I thought the gun was unloaded” – is heard after a tragic shooting.
Ask Griffin Dix, a friend of mine, and a former member of the Board of Trustees of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. His son. Kenzo Dix, died on May 29, 1994, when his 15-year-old friend thought the gun was unloaded.
In Tennessee, three days before Christmas last year, a teen was killed by another “unloaded gun.”
“William Michael Clarence Evans died around 1:30 a.m. when a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol went off in the hand of a 16-year-old friend, Jefferson County Sheriff David Davenport said.
“They were handling or examining it for some reason,” the sheriff said. “Evidently, they thought it was unloaded. The 16-year-old pulled the trigger and the bullet hit the 19-year-old in the forehead and killed him.”
One of my best friends from grade school still has the bullet in his back from the summer after ninth grade, when someone said “let’s scare Scott” and thought the gun was unloaded.
A month after I was elected Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, one of our police recruits – whose family I knew – was killed in a training exercise because the training officer mistakenly thought he had unloaded his gun.
I could go on and on.
Here’s an idea. Don’t. Is your chief complaint about Starbuck’s gun policy that a customer might kill someone through an accidental discharge? Do you have any idea how stupid that sounds?
According to the National Safety Council, there were 830 accidental deaths in the U.S. related to firearms in 2007. There’s no data on how many of these fatalities occurred in coffee shops, but I’m thinking it’s probably close to zero. Maybe even zero.
Come to think of it, what exactly IS Helmke’s problem with licensed guns in Starbucks? Seriously, I’d like to know. It seems to be something to do with the dangers of an armed society, but Helmke singularly refrains from making that case in a coherent, coffee house-connected way.
Perhaps that’s because it’s the wrong thing to do. Why doesn’t Helmke address gun ownership amongst criminals, rather than latte drinkers (not to say no criminal drinks lattes)? Is it because the chattering class with which Mr. Helmke communes, his “base,” are Starbucks customers?