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Starbucks asks not to be center of gun debate

Coffee chain Starbucks Inc. is sticking to its policy of letting customers carry guns where it’s legal and said it does not want to be put in the middle of a larger gun-control debate.

The statement stems from recent incidents when gun owners have walked into Starbucks and other businesses to test state laws that allow gun owners to carry weapons openly in public places. Gun control advocates have protested.

Starbucks’ backing of its policy comes ahead of a press conference on Wednesday by The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence near Seattle’s Pike Place Market, where the first Starbucks cafe opened.

The organization has circulated a petition that has more than 28,000 signatures demanding that Starbucks “offer espresso shots, not gunshots” and declare its coffeehouses “gun-free zones.”

Businesses can choose to ban guns from their premises.

The issue has hit Mississippi’s Capitol. Senate Bill 2153 would have removed the provision in state law that prohibits people who have a permit to carry concealed weapons from carrying them inside bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Sen. Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, authored the bill and said it was designed to expand gun rights to permit holders. “We’re basically just giving people the right to protect themselves and freeing them up from those restrictions that have been placed on concealed weapon permit holders,” he said.

The bill did not survive yesterday’s committee deadline at the Capitol.

That’s good news to Andy Wilson, who owns Underground 119 restaurant and bar in Downtown Jackson.

“I don’t want any guns, licensed or not, in my bar,” Wilson said last week. “I believe in the rights of all Americans to own guns. However, they shouldn’t be allowed to infringe on the rights or safety of others. What’s the purpose of this? It’s not 1878. I don’t care if you’re a senator or president or the best customer I have, you’re not bringing a gun into my bar.”

Starbucks said Tuesday that it complies with local laws in the 43 states that have open-carry weapon laws. Not to do so, the chain said, would make the chain “require our partners to ask law abiding customers to leave our stores, putting our partners in an unfair and potentially unsafe position.”

It said security measures are in place for any “threatening situation” that might occur in stores.

Starbucks asked both gun enthusiasts and gun-control advocates “to refrain from putting Starbucks or our partners into the middle of this divisive issue.”

— MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler contributed to this story

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