gun control

Stepping into Troubled Waters

Starbucks and Barilla pasta demonstrated once again the travails of plunging into the roiled waters of emotional social issues.

With a nudge from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz asked his latte-sipping customers to leave their guns at home, which prompted gun-toters to rush to the nearest coffee shop and take a selfie of them toting. One Facebook posting showed a guy with an assault rifle sucking up a grande drink, accompanied by his girlfriend wearing a Starbucks T-shirt.

Without a nudge, Chairman Guido Barilla told a reporter he wouldn't use a gay family in his advertisements because "the concept of the sacred family remains one of the basic values of the company." His comments spread through social media and triggered threats of a #BoycottBarilla. One of the first calls Barilla may have received could have been from Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, who earned a similar boycott for a similar comment. 

Neither plunge into troubled waters will likely have a lasting effect on either consumer giant, but the episodes show what can happen when you enter those waters. You better know how to swim in rough currents.

Schultz is no stranger to the culture wars. He has taken positions in support of gay rights and led a business effort to hire more Americans to speed economic recovery. It wasn't a huge surprise he would enter the gun control minefield. After all, Starbucks says it sells an experience, not just coffee. A lot of people may not be comfortable reading the morning paper or working on their laptop next to someone packing heat.

NRA and Mental Health

The National Rifle Association and cause marketing may not seem like a match. But what if the NRA took on a cause marketing campaign to push for improved funding for community mental health programs?

Strange bedfellows often make the best coalitions and this one seems like a natural. Since the NRA won't support virtually any restrictions on gun ownership, maybe it should concentrate on at least one cross-section of Americans who can do great harm with firearms.

Not only mentally ill people morph into serial killers. But beyond question, community mental health programs have come up short in handling a population that once might have been confined in a state hospital, but now is left to fend for themselves, often homeless and living in the streets. 

There have been valiant efforts, especially by local governments and effective nonprofits, to patch up a system that never was really stitched together to provide housing, medication management and access to jobs. The big problem is a lack of money and manpower to handle the challenge of treating mental illness, not just reacting to symptoms such as substance abuse and erratic behavior.

There isn't even enough money for programs such as one in place in California that is tasked with confiscating guns from persons with known mental illnesses. While the NRA reportedly hasn't opposed the program, it apparently has lobbied against adequate funding.

So why not put all that in the past, turn over a new leaf and come out as the loudest, most emphatic supporter for effective community mental health treatment, including programs that take away their access to firearms, which can result in the deaths of others and themselves? This seems like a perfect way for NRA to earn wider respect, champion a group of people who are overlooked or ignored and address at least one major stumbling block to prevent mass killings.