In an open letter Tuesday, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz asked customers to "no longer bring firearms" into the chain's stores or outdoor seating areas.
Schultz wrote that it had been the company's policy to follow local laws. In states with so-called "open carry" laws, customers were permitted to bring firearms into stores.
But that policy inadvertently thrust Starbucks into the debate over "open carry" and recent events have prompted the company to shift course. Pro-gun advocates staged a "Starbucks Appreciation Day" last month to commend the company for its position on "open carry." Schultz wrote that those advocates "disingenuously" portrayed the company as a "champion of 'open carry.'"
"To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores," Schultz wrote. "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."
Schultz clarified that he is not imposing an "outright ban," saying that he wants to "give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request." He also said that enforcing such a ban "would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers."
"I am proud of our country and our heritage of civil discourse and debate," he wrote in closing. "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."