Joseph Olson, Hamline prof, applauds Starbucks' stand on packin' heat
By Hart Van Denburg in Civil Society
Tue., Mar. 9 2010 @ 12:15PM

Hamline University Professor Joseph Olson, who played a key role in drafting Minnesota's current concealed-carry firearms laws, has given Starbucks a big long-distance pat on the back in its growing battle with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

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"In this case, 43 of the 50 U.S. states have open carry weapon laws," the company said. "Where these laws don't exist, we comply with laws that prohibit the open carrying of weapons. The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores."

That's fine with Olson, who points out that current law in Minnesota allows individuals with gun permits to carry a properly-holstered firearm into a private establishment, except in cases where there is a clearly-displayed sign prohibiting guns. If someone is found to have a firearm on property where it's not permitted, the gun owner can be asked to leave by the establishment's owner; the owner can have police come and escort the gun owner off the property if necessary. If they don't leave, they can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.

There are 60,000 firearms permit holders in Minnesota, Olson said. And as far as he knows, none have ever been arrested for violating the current law.

"It's just not a problem," he said.

Joan Peterson, of Duluth, who sits on Brady's board, says she understands that the law allows permitted gun owners to carry firearms. But she's appalled that anyone would want to do such a thing at a neighborhood coffee shop, where the biggest threat anyone faces is a toddler tipping over a coffee cup. She says there's no specific effort under way in Minnesota to get Starbucks to change its corporate policy. She's leaving that to the national petition drive.

Olson dismissed the Brady group's campaign as little more than a public relations ploy.

"The Constitution isn't on their side," he said. "The threat is not from law-abiding citizens."

But Peterson points out that it was that got the ball rolling in this particular case, and that her organization is merely responding to what it calls a blatant provocation aimed agitating for changes in state laws to allow more guns into more and more places. She respects gun owners' stand on the Second Amendment, but she says their world view is one grounded in fear of "someone around every corner" -- and that their solution is wrong.

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