Newtown, Conn. Starbucks Closing Early Over Gun Group Event

The Newtown Action Alliance calls the event "reprehensible."

Starbucks is closing early in Newtown today as a gun rights groups holds a "Starbucks Appreciation Day."

"Today, advocacy groups from different sides of the open carry debate announced plans to visit our Newtown, Connecticut store to bring attention to their points of view," Chris Carr, executive vice president for U.S. Retail at Starbucks posted on the company's Web site. "We recognize that there is significant and genuine passion surrounding this topic, however out of respect for Newtown and everything the community has been through we decided to close our store early before the event started."

The Newtown Action Alliance had discouraged the groups from running the event in Newtown, Conn.

Sandy Hook Promise issued a statement on Friday afternoon thanking the coffee company for closing the Newtown store early.

"Thank you Starbucks Coffee Company for closing the Newtown store today early out of respect to the families who lost loved ones and the community who grieves for them.  Love wins."

The event is part of a nationwide effort for gun rights supporters to spend money at Starbucks stores Friday because the coffee chain keeps an open policy on carrying weapons inside their establishments.

"Starbucks did not endorse or sponsor the event. We continue to encourage customers and advocacy groups from all sides of the debate to contact their elected officials, who make the open carry laws that our company follows. Our long-standing approach to this topic has been to comply with local laws and statutes in the communities we serve," Carr said in a statement. "Thank you for your understanding and respect for the Newtown community."

A Facebook page for the event was created, urging people across the country to visit their local Starbucks.

"We will thank starbucks (sic) for standing up for our right to bear arms by going there on Friday, August 9th," a statement on the page said.

The page urged all participants who plan on carrying weapons to follow all local, state and federal laws.

Matt Botalli, of Ridgefield, posted on his own Facebook page that he will be visiting the Starbucks in Newtown to show support. He commented on the CT Open Carry Facebook page that he and a group of people from the Connecticut Citizens Defense League will be at the coffee shop from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday.

"Come down, meet me and my friends. I guarantee there will not be a safer public place in all of CT," he wrote on his page.

The president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, Scott Wilson,  said Thursday that his organization did not organize the event.

"Patronizing Starbucks was not a planned or coordinated event by the leadership of CCDL in any way shape or form.  Individual members from CCDL decided to meet on their own, and pay homage to the coffee chain," Wilson said in a statement.

The Newtown Action Alliance, which was formed following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, issued a statement on Thursday discouraging gun rights groups from holding the "Starbucks Appreciation Day" in Newtown.

"Our community is still healing and we find it reprehensible that they are picking Newtown to rally," said David Ackert, a spokesperson for Newtown Action Alliance. "It is disturbing to think that tomorrow night you and your children may be sitting in Starbucks when people carrying guns walk through the door."

In a statement on Thursday, a spokesperson for Starbucks said the company does not endorse the appreciation events, but that their long-standing policies have not changed.

"We comply with local laws and statutes in the communities we serve, abiding by laws that permit open carry," Zack Hutson, a company spokesperson said. "Where these laws don't exist, openly carrying weapons in our stores is prohibited.

The company posted a blog on Friday announcing the early closure.

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