Lost among the hyperbole of Starbucks’ policy of allowing local custom/laws to determine their position on conceal carry is the question: “has Starbucks ever been robbed at gunpoint?” To which I can reply without hesitation, “yes.” My ex-wife witnessed an armed robbery at a Texas Starbucks. It went down like this . . .
My ex was working at a business in a strip center in a relatively well-to-do part of Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo lies in the center/top of the Texas Panhandle, centrally located between two oceans. Immortalized in (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, Amarillo is a typical small city/large town. In other words, you can’t swing a saddle without hitting a Starbucks emporium du cafe.
On the date in question, my ex was having her morning injection of caffeine, meeting with a client in the Starbucksa few businesses down from where she worked. Two enterprising young thugs entered Starbucks, pulled guns and demanded all the money from the cash register.
Let’s pause for a nano-second and observe the following:
- The robbers were armed
- My ex was not
- She did, however, have a concealed handgun permit
The robbers left with the loot, without further incident. Shocked customers pressed their cell phones into service. The bandits were picked up just a few blocks away, and the money recovered. Nobody was hurt, physically.
I asked my ex what she would have done, had she been carrying.
“Nothing,” she replied.
When you’re properly trained to conceal carry, you learn that there’s a pretty high bar for armed intervention. While the robbers threatened the workers with a gun, introducing another handgun in the mix is the wrong move—unless it appears that the robbers are about to get trigger-happy.
From where she was sitting, pulling a gun could have exacerbated the situation and gotten someone killed. Possibly an innocent bystander. Possibly herself. The thing NOT to do in an armed robbery: go all “Dirty Harry” on the perps. But the situation could have been very different . . .
Let’s imagine a different scenario, like the one that went down in Irving, Texas at a Taco Bell just a couple of years ago. Irving is a suburb of Dallas, the former home of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Stadium. Here’s the official report of the incident:
In January 1991, Jessy San Miguel, then 19, and Jerome Green, 17, waited outside a Taco Bell restaurant that had been closed and locked for the night. When an employee opened the door to take out the trash, the pair went inside and forced the assistant manager, Michael John Phelan, 28, to wait for a time-lock safe to open. Then they herded Phelan, employee Theresa Fraga, 16, and Theresa’s cousin, Frank Fraga, 23, into a walk-in freezer. Theresa Fraga was also pregnant at the time.
The robbers noticed Son Trang Nyugen, 35, a friend of the Fragas who was waiting to take them home, sitting in a vehicle outside and also forced him into the freezer with the other victims. San Miguel and Green then left the restaurant with the money. A few minutes later, San Miguel decided to go back inside the restaurant and the freezer where his hostages were.
Police who took his confession said he “asked them to give him a good reason why he shouldn’t kill them”, then shot them each in the head at close range with a 9 mm pistol. Phelan and Nyugen were shot once and the Fragas were each shot twice.
San Miguel and Green were stopped about a half a mile from the scene, on suspicion of drunk driving. In their car, police found the gun, two Taco Bell sacks stuffed with $1,390, ski masks, and two pairs of gloves. They began looking for Taco Bell restaurants in the area and found the four victims in the freezer.
The first officer on the scene fainted at the sight of the bodies. There was so much blood on the floor, police used a squeegee to find the spent cartridges. Green was a former part-time employee of that restaurant. San Miguel had applied for a job there but was not hired.
If my wife or I or any well-trained or even just sensible civilian had been carrying a concealed weapon in this scenario, when the robbers had decided to herd the customers in the back, we would have deployed deadly force.
Remember, you wouldn’t necessarily know if the robbers had an accomplice (back in the Starbucks scenario). Pull a gun to take out the bad guys, and you could find yourself shot by one of the other ‘customers’ who was actually a confederate of the bad guys. It has happened.
Only when you believe that your own life—or the lives of everyone in there—are in imminent danger, should you even think about pulling a weapon. Bottom line, it’s a judgment call. No two situations are alike.
Now you could argue that not all legal gun owners are capable of restraint. That the absence of legal guns helped ensure that the Starbucks robbery ended safely. Society has to balance the possibility of legal guns increasing the number, severity and outcome of violent confrontations vs. the possibility that legal guns can prevent or end them. Successfully.
The Brady Campaign and other gun control groups are clear on this point. Less guns equals a safer society. They are not daunted by the possibility that gun control will concentrate gun ownership with the police and criminals (as it has in every state where concealed carry is highly restricted). They will take my ex-wife’s Starbucks episode as proof that gun control works.
My ex-wife had learned a different lesson that day: it’s better to carry and not need your weapon than need it and not have it.
This is the mindset of millions of law-obeying Americans who live in states where it is legal to carry a firearm. Starbucks is not wrong to respect their rights. They may even even be right.
The soulless bastard that perpetrated the Taco Bell murders was executed back in 2000. It’s scary to think that this kind of crime could happen in America. Or happen again. At a Starbucks.