If your morning plans included sipping a mocha frappe at your local Starbucks while lovingly polishing your Colt 45, the coffee shop chain kindly requests that you reconsider, and leave the gun at home.
Many U.S. restaurants and shops don’t allow firearms on their properties as part of their company policies, but because Starbucks’ policy has been to default to local gun laws, including “open carry” regulations that allow people to bring firearms into stores in many U.S. states, the chain has been dragged into the heated debate over gun rights.
This past August, in order to thank the coffee shop chain for what they saw as a firearm-friendly policy, gun-rights advocates held a national “Starbucks Appreciation Day” at multiple Starbucks locations nationwide. One of these locations included Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were shot dead in an elementary school last December. Though Starbucks had the foresight to close that shop before the event was scheduled to begin, the Appreciation Day events pulled the company deeper into the contentious political debate.
In an effort to distance itself from the controversy, and to make it clear that Starbucks does not sponsor or advocate the carrying of loaded firearms in public, chief executive Howard Schultz said in an open letter 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.” He went on to say that:
“We’ve seen the ‘open carry’ debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening…some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction…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.”
The company fell short of issuing an outright ban on guns in its cafes, hoping to give “responsible gun owners a chance to respect its request,” Schultz said. Starbucks was also concerned that placing an outright ban on firearms in its shops could potentially create situations in which employees would need to confront armed customers — not an ideal over-coffee conversation.
Really, unless you’re in a 19th century western saloon, you probably don’t need to have a gun on your hip to order a refreshing beverage (even if it’s within your rights to do so).
While discussing the situation with Reuters, Schultz addressed the issue of whether his company’s attempt at distancing itself from political ire might alienate some of its customers.
“I’m not worried we’re going to lose customers over this,” he said. “I feel like I’ve made the best decision in the interest of our company.”