By Lisa Baertlein
Sept 18 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 letter will appear in major U.S. newspapers on Thursday,
including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the
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 National Rifle Association, a powerful pro-gun lobbying
group, did not have an immediate comment on the Starbucks letter
and made no mention of it on its Twitter or Facebook pages.
But one gun rights advocate said he would stop getting
coffee at Starbucks.
"It's their choice and we support their right as a private
business to make that choice. Gun owners will choose on their
own if they want to patronize them or not," said Rob Harris,
media director for Michigan Open Carry, a group that took part
in Starbucks Appreciation Day events this summer.
A gun control advocacy group formed days after Newtown,
killings, "Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America",
predicted other large companies would follow Starbucks' lead.
"This policy change represents a sea change in American
culture, which is finally shifting away from allowing guns in
public places," Shannon Watts, the group's founder, said in a
The Starbucks 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 shooting 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