Starbucks CEO Asks Customers To Please Leave Guns At Home

CEO Howard Schultz posted the letter below on the Starbucks blog late Tuesday night.

CEO Howard Schultz posted the letter below on the Starbucks blog late Tuesday night.

For years, Starbucks has been stuck in the middle of the debate over whether businesses should let customers bring guns into stores in states and municipalities where it is legal to openly carry a firearm. CEO Howard Schultz had previously called it a “difficult, fragile” situation but said the company was not going to change its longstanding policy of following whatever the local laws allowed. Then last night, he issued an open letter to customers, asking them to please leave their guns at home.

Since the Starbucks site is currently being slammed by traffic, here is the text of the letter from Schultz to customers:

Few topics in America generate a more polarized and emotional debate than guns. In recent months, Starbucks stores and our partners (employees) who work in our stores have been thrust unwillingly into the middle of this debate. That’s why I am writing today with a respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.

From the beginning, our vision at Starbucks has been to create a “third place” between home and work where people can come together to enjoy the peace and pleasure of coffee and community. Our values have always centered on building community rather than dividing people, and our stores exist to give every customer a safe and comfortable respite from the concerns of daily life.

We appreciate that there is a highly sensitive balance of rights and responsibilities surrounding America’s gun laws, and we recognize the deep passion for and against the “open carry” laws adopted by many states. (In the United States, “open carry” is the term used for openly carrying a firearm in public.) For years we have listened carefully to input from our customers, partners, community leaders and voices on both sides of this complicated, highly charged issue.

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.

I would like to clarify two points. First, this is a request and not an outright ban. Why? Because we want to give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request—and also because enforcing a ban would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers, and that is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on. Second, we know we cannot satisfy everyone. For those who oppose “open carry,” we believe the legislative and policy-making process is the proper arena for this debate, not our stores. For those who champion “open carry,” please respect that 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.

I am proud of our country and our heritage of civil discourse and debate. It is in this spirit that we make today’s request. Whatever your view, I encourage you to be responsible and respectful of each other as citizens and neighbors.

As Schultz mentions in his letter, there has been an uptick in recent years in folks on both sides of the gun-control debate who have used Starbucks locations to illustrate their particular viewpoints. But we wonder if Schultz, rather than do anything to curb these events, has only called more attention to his company and its unwanted place in this heated issue. Those who call for more gun regulation will likely use Starbucks as an example when trying to convince other retailers and restaurants to discourage customers from bringing guns inside. While those who believe that businesses should respect local open-carry laws may turn against the coffee giant that has allowed guns into its stores for more than 40 years.

In a Reuters interview with Schultz, he clarifies that this is not a ban on guns and that customers who are allowed by law to carry a firearm will not be turned away in open-carry states, nor will on-duty law enforcement officers in any location.