Starbucks says guns are no longer welcome in its cafes, though it is stopping short of an outright ban on firearms.
The fine line that the retailer is walking to address the concerns of both gun rights and gun control advocates reflects how heated the issue has become, particularly in light of recent mass shootings.
Most states allow people to openly carry licensed guns in some way and many companies do not have policies banning firearms in their stores.
But Starbucks has become a target for gun control advocates, in part because of its liberal-leaning corporate image. In turn, gun rights advocates have been galvanised by the company’s decision to defer to local laws.
In an interview, CEO Howard Schultz said the decision to ask customers to stop bringing guns into stores came as a result of the growing frequency of “Starbucks Appreciation Days” in recent months, in which gun rights advocates turn up at Starbucks cafes with firearms.
Schultz said the events mischaracterised the company’s stance on the issue and the demonstrations “have made our customers uncomfortable”.
Schultz hopes people will honour the request not to bring in guns but says the company will nevertheless serve those who do.
“We will not ask you to leave,” he said.
The Seattle-based company plans to buy ad space in major national newspapers to run an open letter from Schultz explaining the decision.
The letter points to recent activities by both gun rights and gun control advocates at its stores, saying that it has been “thrust unwillingly” into the middle of the national debate over firearms.
As for the “Starbucks Appreciation Days” being staged by gun rights advocates, it stresses: “To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores.”