At the Starbucks saloon


Today’s quiz: Who are the greater fools, gun-rights enthusiasts strolling into Starbucks outlets with firearms strapped to their waists in order to assert their right to openly carry weapons, or gun-control advocates protesting against Starbucks for not going all Gary Cooper on these postmodern cowboy wannabes and tossing them out of its coffee-saloon doors?

For us, it’s a close call. The recent commotion over “open carry,” one of the more obscure issues in the gun-control debate, shows that common sense is uncommon on either side.

Apparently, it’s legal in 29 states to openly carry a loaded gun, while in another 13 you need a special permit to pretend you’re Wyatt Earp in public. That outrages open-carry enthusiasts, a loosely organized group that has been mounting protests in states considered overly restrictive. Among them is California, which, according to the website, is a “rural open-carry state” -- meaning you can walk around armed without a permit only in some unincorporated county areas. Groups of gun-toting men are showing their disdain for such laws by gathering at stores and restaurants in California and elsewhere, with Starbucks being a particularly popular spot (because nothing goes together like caffeine and high-caliber weaponry).

Starbucks, which can be forgiven for not wanting to alienate customers on either side of the gun divide, has been trying to stay above the fray. “The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in our legislatures and courts, not in our stores,” the company said in a release Wednesday. But its failure to eject armed patrons has goaded the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to launch a petition drive demanding that it do so. Which makes us wonder: If you were a barrista, would you want to have to tell an armed wingnut he has to leave his shooting iron at the door?

We’re not going to delve into the mind-sets of those who feel the need to terrorize the public by flashing firearms, because they don’t appear susceptible to rational argument. We’d expect better from the Brady Campaign, though, given its history of promoting sensible gun laws. Although it’s true that Starbucks, like any business, has the right to refuse service to anyone and thus would be perfectly justified in tossing out the real-life Yosemite Sams, the chain is only trying to comply with state laws and protect its employees. Instead of taking aim at its true foe, the open-carry crowd, the Brady Campaign is spraying ammo at an innocent bystander.