Starbucks asks U.S. customers to leave guns at home

Wed Sep 18, 2013 5:17am EDT

Coffee packages are pictured on display at a Starbucks Coffee store in Pasadena, California July 25, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Coffee packages are pictured on display at a Starbucks Coffee store in Pasadena, California July 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

(Reuters) - Coffee chain Starbucks Corp has asked U.S. customers to leave their guns at home after being dragged into an increasingly fractious debate over U.S. gun rights in the wake of multiple mass shootings.

While many U.S. restaurant chains and retailers do not allow firearms on their properties, Starbucks' policy had been to default to local gun laws, including "open carry" regulations in many U.S. states that allow people to bring guns into stores.

In August, this led gun-rights advocates to hold a national "Starbucks Appreciation Day" to thank the firm for its stance, pulling the company deeper into the fierce political fight.

Locations for Starbucks Appreciation Day events included Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were shot dead in an elementary school in December. Starbucks closed that shop before the event was scheduled to begin.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz said in an open letter to customers late Tuesday that Starbucks Appreciation Day events "disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of 'open carry.' To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores."

The coffee chain did not, however, issue an outright ban on guns in its nearly 7,000 company-owned cafes, saying this would potentially require staff to confront armed customers.

The Seattle-based company hoped to give "responsible gun owners a chance to respect its request," Schultz said.

The CEO told Reuters the policy change was not the result of the Newtown Starbucks Appreciation Day event, which prompted the Newtown Action Alliance to call on the company to ban guns at all of its U.S. stores. Nor was it in response to the mass shootings this week at the Washington Navy Yard.

"We've seen the 'open carry' debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening," Schultz wrote, noting that "some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction," at times soliciting and confronting employees and patrons.

"We found ourselves in a position where advocates on both sides of the issue were using Starbucks as a staging ground for their own political position," said Schultz, who in the past has willingly waded into the public debate over the U.S. national debt and gay marriage.

Schultz said more people had been bringing guns into Starbucks shops over the last six months, prompting confusion and dismay among some customers and employees.

"I'm not worried we're going to lose customers over this," he told Reuters. "I feel like I've made the best decision in the interest of our company."

Starbucks' request does not apply to authorized law enforcement personnel.

(Editing by Philip Barbara and Mark Potter)

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Comments (45)
JasonA wrote:
I will stop carrying when there is a sign on the door saying I can’t. At which time I’ll turn around and not return. But until then its my right to carry. Have a good day liberals.

Sep 18, 2013 5:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
odonnks wrote:
No more Starbucks coffee or gifts will be purchased by my household. Too bad, the coffee while high priced is pretty good.

Sep 18, 2013 6:04am EDT  --  Report as abuse
DanteMA wrote:
So-called “gunbuster” signs do not carry force of law anywhere other than schools and federal buildings. Regardless of “store policy” you may carry a firearm wherever you please, assuming you are legally eligible to carry one, and appropriately licensed if required by state law. The proprietor may ask you to leave if he/she becomes aware of it, and you may be charged with trespassing or disturbing the peace if you then refuse to leave (as witnessed by a law enforcement official – not simply the proprietors claim).

A retail store or restaurant is a “way to which the public has right of access” unless it is an age restricted or members-only establishment – these businesses are still private property but they constitute a public space. A store or restaurant is not like a warehouse, factory, or farm, where it is not reasonable for the public to expect to have access to a business. Much like the signs in some establishments requiring one to wear a tie and jacket, signs asking customers not to carry firearms is meaningless until the one is actually told by the staff to leave. If you simply leave when asked, and the police are called after, there should be no complaint. Should the police be called without the store staff informing you, there should be no complaint (possibly one against the proprietor, depending on the officer). I should note, this relies on keeping a level head, complying with the proprietors request to leave, and not “brandishing” or “rudely displaying” your weapon in the first place which should be a no-brainer for firearms owners.

Sep 18, 2013 6:15am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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