Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made waves after he posted an open letter asking customers to keep their guns out of Starbucks stores on the company blog. He wrote yesterday, "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 stressed that this is a request and not a ban. Customers who still choose to openly carry their guns will not be asked to leave the store. He did continue to say that he did not believe stores were an appropriate venue for carrying guns: "The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers." He told the New York Times, "Guns should not be part of the Starbucks experience, especially when small kids are around."
Though the decision comes on the heels of the Navy Yard shooting, Starbucks told the New York Times that the open letter was not a response to the tragedy. "I want to make it very clear that Starbucks is not a policymaker and as a company we are not pro- or anti-gun," Schultz told the Times.
Starbucks' previous policy was to permit carrying guns in states where open carry laws exist, and to prohibit it where there were no such laws. Starbucks has been caught in the middle of the national gun debate. Organizations like the National Gun Victims Action Council called for a boycott against Starbucks for allowing open carry in its stores, asking the store to join Disney, IKEA, California Pizza Kitchen and Peet’s Coffee in banning guns. At the same time, gun owners heralded Starbucks and staged events like Starbucks Appreciation Day in Newtown, Conn., where Adam Lanza shot and killed 28 people in 2012.
Gun owners on Facebook reacted with disappointment to the news. Facebook user Brian Crook wrote, "You've just advertised that your establishments are a gun free zone. Criminals are on Facebook too. It'll only be a matter of time before one of your poor employees becomes a victim of your ignorant decisions. In the meantime I'll be taking my gun and my business elsewhere." Many other users wrote that they would not be patronizing Starbucks anymore.
In contrast, gun rights advocacy groups have expressed nonchalance to the letter. Dave Workman, senior editor of TheGunMag.com and communications director for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said he believes the new policy is simply a business decision. "They're not pro-gun or anti-gun — they’re businesspeople and they sell coffee," he said. "Nothing has really changed that much. They’re not going to throw people out or ask people to leave. As long as people behave themselves, they’re going to leave them alone."
Eric Pratt, communications director of Gun Owners of America, said that his organization understands that Starbucks wanted to distance itself from the political issue. "We realize they’re under pressure and they have not stopped telling people to keep firearms," he said. "If it's an issue of the sight of a gun being offensive, then just conceal carry your firearm."