Last night, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz posted an open letter on the company's website asking customers not to bring guns into the company's coffee shops.
He said that Starbucks employees had been stuck in the middle of too many uncomfortable incidents in the gun control debate. He also noted that it was a request and not a ban, as he doesn't want baristas getting into confrontations with armed customers. Law enforcement officers with guns are fine, Schulz said.
Anticipating backlash from gun advocates, the CEO noted the company could not please everyone and wrote, "Starbucks stores are places where everyone should feel relaxed and comfortable. The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers."
In the past few years, Starbucks has become a flashpoint in debates about gun control, as it refused to prohibit guns in stores. Anti-gun groups then organized boycotts of the company, and gun owners countered with "buycotts," giving the company extra business.
From the letter:
Our company's longstanding approach to "open carry" has been to follow local laws: we permit it in states where allowed and we prohibit it in states where these laws don't exist. We have chosen this approach because we believe our store partners should not be put in the uncomfortable position of requiring customers to disarm or leave our stores. We believe that gun policy should be addressed by government and law enforcement -- not by Starbucks and our store partners.
Recently, however, we've seen the "open carry" debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening. Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called "Starbucks Appreciation Days" that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of "open carry." To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. Some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction, including soliciting and confronting our customers and partners.
For these reasons, today we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas--even in states where "open carry" is permitted -- unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.
Read the full letter here.
The letter appears to have been posted around 9 p.m. on the Starbucks website, and three out of four comments by 1 a.m. warned the company that it would lose business and that it was infringing on Second Amendment rights. When the company shared the link on Facebook, it immediately ignited a debate, with some commenters cheering the move and others warning that Starbucks would lose business and now be a target for criminals.
A Facebook user named Jason L. Kreps posted on Dunkin Donuts' Facebook: "I'm guessing your stores will be a lot busier tomorrow."