- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2010

If you want to have a nice, relaxing cup of coffee in a safe environment, try Starbucks. The coffee-shop chain, generally known for environmentalist chic, is probably one of the safest places to hang out these days for a reason that doesn’t fit its image - Starbucks is letting customers openly carry guns in its stores. Americans thus can enjoy their rights and wash them down with a Frappuccino.

Not surprisingly, Starbucks has taken some flak for its stand. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an organization that has supported gun bans in Washington and Chicago, wants guns kept out of Starbucks. Collecting signatures from across the country, the gun controllers announced this week that they have gathered 28,000 signatures to try to pressure the bean sellers to hang fire. What the Brady Campaign actually did is misfire.

Here is some free PR advice for those who support gun bans: 28,000 signatures from a country of 200-some million adults is embarrassingly small. The National Rifle Association, with more than 4 million members, could collect that many signatures for the opposite position in less than an hour. It’s obvious which side won this duel. Despite all the harping from the left, a spokesman for Starbucks said last week that the company is sticking to its policy of letting customers carry guns where it’s legal.

From sea to shining sea, the climate for guns is changing, and the progress extends beyond Starbucks. Major retailers such as Home Depot, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble apparently also are friendly to people who openly pack heat, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Brady Campaign warns businesses that allowing customers to carry guns will scare away other customers. Yet it seems pretty obvious that the businesses themselves - despite all the pressure they face from trial lawyers and bureaucrats to ban guns - are in a much better position to know what their customers want.

Hollywood and the liberal media have skewed public perceptions to such a degree that most Americans probably don’t realize that not so long ago, people openly carried guns without a second thought all the time. Up until 1969, all but one of the public high schools in New York City had rifle teams. Thousands of students carried their rifles every day on subways, buses and streets on their way to school, when they went to practice in the afternoon and on their way home. The students would store their guns in homerooms in the morning and then pick them up in the afternoon. In more normal times, no one thought it was a big deal.

Liberals claim they believe in science, but guns vividly illustrate their intellectual blinders. There is not a single refereed study by criminologists or economists using crime data from across America that shows that right-to-carry laws increase violent crime. The academic debate in refereed journals has been over how large the benefits are.

Here is a prediction: In a very short time, all the furor over Starbucks’ pro-gun policy will be forgotten. The gun grabbers might not like it, but most Americans respect the right to keep and bear arms - even in a coffee shop.

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