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The debate over carrying guns in public came to head at several Starbucks locations in northern Virginia this Valentine's Day.
A gun victims advocacy group called a national boycott against Starbucks coffee stores on Valentine's Day in protest of the company's policy toward guns.
The group National Gun Victim's Action Council wants Starbucks to ban customers from openly carrying firearms in its stores.
Guns in Starbucks has become a perennial issue. In the past, the company has taken the position that its stores follow state and local laws and has its own safety measures in stores.
"Starbucks respects the views of our customers and recognizes that there is significant and genuine passion surrounding this issue," read a statement from the company. "It is Starbucks' long standing approach to abide by the laws that permit open carry and where these laws don’t exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited. As the public debate around this issue continues, we encourage customers and advocacy groups from both sides to share their input with their public officials."
So in Virginia, gun owners are allowed to openly carry their firearms in Starbucks stores.
"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," said Brian Malte, of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
The NGVAC said that Starbucks should follow the lead of other retail chains, like IKEA and California Pizza Kitchen, and enforce a ban within in its stores.
"Starbucks allowing guns to be carried in thousands of their stores significantly increases everyone's risk of being a victim of gun violence," said Elliot Fineman, CEO of the NGVAC. "Open and conceal and carry are among the reasons there are 12,000 gun homicides each year in the U.S."
Gun advocate Ed Levine countered the boycott by calling on gun owners to support Starbucks on Valentine's Day.
"I'm here today to support Starbucks for staying neutral in the gunfight that's been going on with gun owners and non-gun owners," he said at a Starbucks in Sterling, Va.