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Newtown group objects to gun rights rally at Starbucks

A gun control group in Newtown, Conn., is standing up against gun rights advocates planning a rally at a local Starbucks.

Newtown Action Alliance, an advocacy group formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, objected to a "Starbucks Appreciation Day" Friday, saying the community was still healing. The group encouraged Starbucks to evaluate its policy allowing guns in their stores. 

Gun rights supporters embarked on a nationwide effort to spend money at local Starbucks stores, supporting the Seattle-based coffee chain’s policy of abiding by state laws allowing an open policy on carrying weapons inside their establishments.

The event was initiated and advertised through a Facebook event page created by gun owners urging firearm supporters to visit Starbucks carrying firearms or wearing pro-gun rights apparel to show their appreciation.

“Starbucks is allowing us to lawfully carry firearms in their store. Recently, they have been the target of unjust attacks from certain groups that do not support our right to bear arms,” the page said.

“We will thank Starbucks for standing up for our right to bear arms by going there on Friday, August 9th.”

One gun rights group planned to meet at a Starbucks on Church Hill Road, in Newtown.

“Our community is still healing and we find it reprehensible that they are picking Newtown to rally,” David Ackert, a spokesman for Newtown Action Alliance, wrote on the group's Facebook page Thursday.

“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.”

The Newtown Action Alliance, a volunteer-based organization established to take action against gun violence in the wake of the Dec. 14 tragedy in Newtown, discouraged gun advocates from holding the event.

“We are truly touched by the outpouring of support from our alliances and would ask that you instead make your show of solidarity by bringing business to the shops of Sandy Hook that have been hard hit since December,” the Alliance Facebook page read.

Starbucks does not endorse the event, but said each store serves as a gathering place for communities, and the chain’s longstanding approach to comply with local laws and statutes, including laws that permit open carry, will remain unchanged, according to Starbucks representative Zach Hutson.

“We are extremely sensitive to the issue of gun violence in our society and believe that supporting local laws is the right way for us to ensure a safe environment for both our partners (employees) and customers.”

However, if participants solicit other customers or are rude to employees or other patrons, they will be asked to stop their behavior or leave the store, Hutson added.

“As the public debate around this topic continues, we encourage customers and advocacy groups from both sides to share their input with their public officials.”

The Newtown Starbucks closed about five hours earlier than usual on Friday, Hutson said on Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.