Gun owners have responded to a boycott of Starbucks locations by a gun victims advocacy group by encouraging large turnouts to the coffee chain and the "open carry" of weapons in those states that allow it.
The "Starbucks Appreciation Day" protests — also being referred to as a "buycott" — were reported in several states, including Hawaii, Tennessee, and Michigan, as well as in several suburban communities around Seattle, where Starbucks is headquartered, the LA Times reported.
They are aimed at countering the Starbucks boycott called this week by the National Gun Victims Action Council over the chain's policy of looking the other way when gun owners show up at Starbucks with their unloaded firearms.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution cites Starbucks as saying that it is simply complying with the laws of 43 states where it is legal to carry weapons openly, and in which it has nearly 5,000 stores.
According to the pro-guns website opencarry.org, more than half of those states allow owners to carry a loaded handgun without any form of government permission, while another dozen, including Georgia, allow unconcealed loaded handguns to be carried with a permit.
According to the LA Times, the Starbucks boycott, launched Tuesday, aims to persuade Starbucks "to join a growing list of retail chains, including Peet's Coffee, California Pizza Kitchen and IKEA, which prohibit guns even when they're otherwise legal."
"Starbucks allowing guns to be carried in thousands of their stores significantly increases everyone's risk of being a victim of gun violence," the paper quotes Elliot Fineman, head of the Chicago-based council, as saying in a press release.
"Open and conceal and carry are among the reasons there are 12,000 gun homicides each year in the US," he reportedly added.
Utah's KSL.com quoted Brian Malte, of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, as saying: "It causes fear and intimidation among the public, and we don't think Starbucks customers or the public in general should have to deal with people who are obviously not uniformed police officers carrying loaded, open-carry guns in public."
The issue is not new, however the anti-gun lobby's campaign was reinvigorated by a Valentines Day open email to Starbucks from the victims council, titled "Brew not Bullets," opposing the practice.
The group was also urging supporters not to visit a Starbucks until it banned guns inside its outlets.
The LA Times quoted Joe Huffman, a Seattle software engineer who writes a gun blog based in his native Idaho, as saying that he and his friends spent $131.64 at the Starbucks in Seattle's main shopping district on Tuesday.
"I wasn't carrying a gun. I did have a jacket on that had an [National Rifle Association.] life member patch," Huffman said in an interview. "I wanted to demonstrate that even though they're under a lot of pressure, we're very appreciative of them standing up against those people."