Coffee chain’s open letter asks customers to not bring weapons to store
On Tuesday, September 17, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz penned an open letter to customers asking them to no longer carry firearms into Starbucks’ stores. “Our stores exist to give every customer a safe and comfortable respite from the concerns of daily life,” writes Schultz. The letter marks a significant change in the company’s policy regarding firearms, coming just one day after a public shooting in Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard.
The coffee retailer’s long-standing policy regarding guns — across nearly all 7,000 U.S. locations — had been to default to each community’s individual gun laws, including open carry regulations. This policy was frowned upon by advocates of gun-control in the U.S., who have swayed other retailers to eliminate weapons from their premises. The new policy does not apply to police and other law enforcement officials.
The request from Starbucks comes in part because of an increasing number of people bringing guns into the company’s stores over the last six months, causing confusion and dismay amongst some patrons and employees. It is important to note that Schultz has made a request for patrons and employees to not bring weapons to Starbucks, not a ban. Patrons who do bring guns to Starbucks’ cafes will still be served. “This is a request and not an outright ban. Why? Because we want to give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request — and also because enforcing a ban would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers, and that is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on,” Schultz’s letter says. “For those who champion ‘open carry,’ please respect that Starbucks stores are places where everyone should feel relaxed and comfortable. The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers.”
The letter will likely anger advocates of guns-rights, who just last month held a national “Starbucks Appreciation Day” which thanked the company for its stance on gun issues. Schultz’s letter continues regarding the event, saying it “disingenuously portrays Starbucks as a champion of 'open carry.' To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores.”
Despite the uproar the new policy may cause amongst Starbucks’ gun carrying customers and pro-firearms advocates, Schultz isn’t worried about it losing the company customers. "I'm not worried we're going to lose customers over this," Schultz told Reuters. "I feel like I've made the best decision in the interest of our company. Still, it will be interesting to see how pro-firearms advocates react. Will they respect the company’s right to request guns not be brought onto Starbucks’ properties, or will they stage events at the coffee chains’ locations demonstrating their displeasure? Schultz seems to be respectful of rights of gun owners, just not at the cost of comfort and safety of his establishment’s customers.