In an open letter to Americans Wednesday, Starbucks chair, president and chief executive Howard Schultz “respectfully requested” that customers no longer bring guns into coffeehouses or their outside patios.

The Seattle-based coffeehouse chain has become a focal point in recent months for controversy as a result of a long-standing policy that permitted consumers to openly carry guns in states where such “open carry” laws allow it. Schultz said the company took that stand “because we believe our store partners should not be put in the uncomfortable position of requiring customers to disarm or leave our stores.”

In his letter to Americans, posted on the company website and scheduled to appear in newspaper ads on Thursday, and in a video to Starbucks employees, Schultz said he still does not expect Starbucks workers to attempt to enforce his no-firearms request, and it is not an “outright ban.”


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“We want to give responsible gun owners a chance to respect our request,” he wrote.

Starbucks, which has about 7,000 company-owned units in the U.S. and 19,209 worldwide, has become a staging ground for activists on both sides of the gun debate.

Pro-gun advocates have organized “Starbucks Appreciation Days” that “disingenuously” portray the chain as a champion of open-carry policies, said Schultz in the letter. “To be clear: We do not want these events in our stores.”

At the same time, anti-gun protesters, such as the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, have circulated petitions asking Starbucks to ban guns and called for boycotts on “Skip Starbucks Saturdays” to convey their message.

Schultz said such events have become increasingly uncivil, and, in some cases, threatening.

“It’s an emotionally charged issue that’s well beyond Starbucks,” Schultz said in a video to employees. “We are not a policy maker. We are not pro-gun or anti-gun. But we do believe that guns and weapons should not be part of the Starbucks experience.”

Schultz said the request does not apply to law enforcement officers.

The move comes days after a gunman shot 12 people in Washington, D.C., before police shot and killed the shooter.

Earlier this year, a Florida woman was reportedly shot in the leg at a Starbucks when her friend dropped her purse, which was carrying a loaded gun.

In a statement Wednesday, Moms Demand Action hailed the announcement as a policy change, recognizing that it fell short of a ban. The group vowed to continue pressure if there are other instances of accidental shootings or open-carry rallies at Starbucks stores.

“This is a huge win for American moms who fought for this policy change, which will make Starbucks customers safer,” said Sharon Watts, the group’s founder. “Because Starbucks is a business icon, this policy change represents a sea change in American culture, which is finally shifting away from allowing guns in public places.”

Schultz urged those who oppose open-carry laws to use the legislative and policy-making process to enact change.

“For those who champion open carry, please respect that Starbucks stores are places where everyone should feel relaxed and comfortable,” he added. “The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout