More than 3,000 gun rights activists across the country are visiting their local Starbucks coffee shops Friday with their firearms in tow for a national "Starbucks Appreciation Day."
Organizers said on a Facebook page
dedicated to the event that they are carrying on the campaign to thank Starbucks for "standing up for our right to bear arms."
The Seattle-based chain has a corporate policy of following state gun laws, including open carry laws in more than 40 states that allow permit-holding customers to bring their loaded weapons into the coffee shop.
Gun owners reportedly began staging the event a few years ago after Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz resisted pressure from gun control advocates to ban firearms from the stores, saying in one interview, "I'm not a politician. I run a coffee company and we're trying to abide by the laws in which we do business."
This is the first time, however, they have staged the appreciation day since the mass shootings last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that killed 20 schoolchildren. According to the Washington Times
, members of the Newtown community have objected to a planned display of guns at the local Starbucks.
"Our community is still healing, and we find it reprehensible that they are picking Newtown to rally," David Ackert, spokesman for the Newtown Action Alliance, said in a statement, the newspaper reported.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, founded the day after the Newtown massacre, is among the organizations that have called on the group to find another location.
Shannon Watts, who started the Moms group as a Facebook page
, told the Washington Times, "You could be enjoying a latte and scones with your kids and someone next to you could have a gun loosely in their pocket or out on a table."
The group has asked the company to change its policy and plans on meeting at the Starbucks in Newtown at 6 p.m. Friday.
In response to the complaint, Starbucks spokesperson Zack Hutson told Fox CT
, "These events are not endorsed by Starbucks."
"That said," he added, "our stores are gathering places for the communities we serve and we respect the diverse views of our customers. We recognize that there is significant and genuine passion surrounding open carry laws. Our long-standing approach to this topic remains unchanged.
"We comply with local laws and statutes in the communities we serve, abiding by laws that permit open carry," Hutson continued. "Where these laws don't exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited."
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