Gun policies should remain business choice

Freedom New Mexico

The day after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over whether the Second Amendment to the Constitution overrides local gun control laws, national coffee chain Starbucks defended its policy not to prohibit firearms at its outlets.

Starbucks officials issued a statement Wednesday that essentially deferred gun prohibition decisions to government officials. If they aren’t banned in a specific city or town, Starbucks won’t ban them either.

The stores’ non-intervention policy came to the fore after the high court’s decision nearly two years ago that struck down the District of Columbia’s gun ban. Gun rights advocates began carrying weapons into businesses to test local ordinances; Starbucks didn’t stop them. People who favor gun control then began calling on the chain to issue its own prohibition.

And that’s how things should work in this country.

The court’s 2008 ruling, in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, applied to the D.C. area, which is federal territory. Arguments this week in the case of McDonald v. Chicago addresses that city’s handgun ban; the court’s decision is expected to determine if the right to own and carry weapons is a fundamental right that can’t be denied by local ordinances.

Starbucks’ statement suggests the company prefers to leave such decisions to the people, or the authorities that seek to regulate them. It should have that freedom, just those on both sides of the issue have the freedom to lobby the company to keep or change its policies.

Business owners’ views surely are just as diverse on this issue as those of the general public. Arguments can be made on both sides about which policy is safer. Some believe gun bans will deprive people of the tools of violence. Others maintain that people who are willing to commit violent crimes aren’t going to pay much heed to simple gun ordinances.

Many business managers see a deterrent in the possibility that some customers might be armed. It’s the same logic that leads many of them to offer discounts, free coffee and other enticements to law enforcement officials. When they’re in an establishment as customers, police provide de facto protection, since they can scare away any bad guys who otherwise might come in to rob the place.

So let Starbucks and other such companies make their own decisions on allowing or banning weapons on their premises. The public can show its own support or opposition to the policy by frequenting or avoiding the businesses. After all, competing coffee houses can always open up to challenge Starbucks. Even fast-food chains are beginning to offer specialty coffees. Any of them can decide to allow or prohibit weapons. Likewise, competition usually exists in other kinds of businesses where the presence or prohibition of guns might be an issue.

Based on justices’ comments and questions Tuesday, many expect the Supreme Court to rule that gun ownership indeed is an individual right. Consequently, the right to decide if people can carry weapons into a commercial building should rest with the owners and managers of those individual businesses.