As Starbucks Corp. and some other chain stores in the U.S. are finding themselves caught in the middle of a firearms debate, one workplace violence expert is advocating for common sense and cautioning that the situation is a "dangerous game" in regards to its relationship with and potential for workplace violence incidents.
The "open carry" movement, in which gun owners carry unconcealed handguns as they go about their everyday business, is loosely organized around the country but has been gaining traction in recent months. Gun-control advocates have been pushing to quash the movement, including by petitioning the Starbucks coffee chain to ban guns on its premises. Anti-gun activists gathered recently at the original Starbucks in Seattle to push retailers like the coffee chain to ban customers from openly carrying guns
"My initial visceral reaction is that the pro gun movement is once again using this as a staging issue to advocate the right of Americans to carry weapons," says W. Barry Nixon, executive director for the National Institute for the Prevention of Workplace Violence, Inc. "I unequivocally support the right of Americans to carry weapons, however, I believe that, ‘common sense,’ which is often over shadowed in these ‘gun rights’ issues, would suggest that no one needs to carry a gun to get a cup of coffee. These types of shenanigans are designed to draw attention to ‘right to carry’ rights without regard for impact on others."
Nixon adds that Starbucks' approach to this makes absolute sense to him, because if Starbucks decides to prohibit the carrying of guns in their stores how are they going to enforce it? "Just imagine the associate who normally takes your latte order having to tell a gun toting man to please leave the store. Most of the associates are young people and they absolutely should not be put in the position of having to face up to a gun toting person," Nixon notes.
"Beyond the above concern, my biggest fear has to do with the ‘law of unintended consequences,’ a principle of system thinking, and occurs when a particular action generates consequences that were not planned or anticipated by the people perpetrating the original action," he tells Security magazine. "In other words, once a gun is introduced into a retail store environment the possible things that could go wrong, such as workplace violence, are impossible to calculate regardless of the actual intent of the person carrying the gun. Human beings under the best of circumstances can behave in unexpected ways and having guns in Starbucks or any other store is introducing a ‘wild card’ that hopefully does not result in a tragic event. This is a dangerous game."