An organization called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is taking credit for Starbucks' headline-making decision to stop allowing guns in its coffeehouses.
"This is a huge win for American moms who fought for this policy change," said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. Her organization collected 60,000 signatures this summer and has used social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to lobby -- or, as some say jokingly, "nag" -- the coffee giant into taking action.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz did not refer to Moms Demand Action in his letter announcing the policy change, and a Starbucks spokesman declined to discuss what role, if any, the group played in Schultz's decision.
"Our decision was a response to activities by groups on both sides [of the gun debate], and really what is ultimately right for the company," Starbucks spokesman Zack Hutson said Wednesday.
But Watts told The Times that she is confident that Moms Demand Action was instrumental in bringing about the change, and says so on her website. "We have been tweeting, emailing and writing letters," she said during a telephone interview. "Because moms love social media so much, it just caught fire."
The group has more than 100,000 members, and a chapter in every state, Watts said. Its Facebook page has more than 112,000 "likes," and features a steady stream of posts intended to rally its troops, such as links to national gun-related tragedies including this week's Navy Yard shooting, and the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old girl after gunfire in the street pierced the walls of her New Orleans home.
This summer, members we encouraged to #SkipStarbucks each Saturday -- that is, use social media to highlight their decision to bypass the popular coffeehouse until it changed its gun policy.
Today, the hashtag changed to #CelebrateStarbucks -- as you can see in the photo above, posted on the group's Facebook page -- to thank the coffee giant.
"This is a sea change for an iconic global business to take this kind of a stand," Watts said.
Her goal is to see Moms Demand Action become the gun equivalent of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and admires the way that organization has created the cultural shift in our society that now looks down on getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. That shaming effect can be plenty powerful, says Watts, who envisions a day when gun violence "becomes as distasteful as smoking and drunk driving."
Watts, who lives in Zionsville, Ind., said she began Moms Demand Action after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December. The group's website says it supports the 2nd Amendment but wants gun control checks including background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases and a ban on assault weapons.
The way Watts sees it, there are "three ways to skin this cat," including via state and federal legislation. And the group does indeed lobby lawmakers at every chance on those two fronts.
But the third way, the more vocal way, Watts said, is through "American business policies."
That means putting pressure on businesses -- including those that make money off American moms -- to stand alongside them.
"We are on the precipice of insanity in this country on guns," she said. "We are out of control. And it's up to mothers to pull us back."
The group's next target, now that Starbucks is out of the way? "Staples," she said.