Starbucks Corp. is asking gun owners to leave their weapons at home or in their car, reversing its stance after being caught in the political debate over gun rights in the United States.
Starbucks coffee shops now "respectfully request" that patrons stop bringing their guns in the stores, chief executive officer Howard Schultz said. "We're not pro-gun or anti-gun." The Seattle-based company simply wants no part of the escalating debate over the place of firearms in American society.
Starbucks, which unlike many restaurant chains and retailers until now tolerated guns inside its coffee shops, had been embraced by gun-rights activists as a champion of their cause. "Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called 'Starbucks Appreciation Days' that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of 'open carry,'" Schultz wrote in an open letter released this week. "To be clear: We do not want these events in our stores."
Starbucks won't ban firearms outright, however, because it would "put employees in a very uncomfortable position of confronting somebody with a gun."
Since 2010, gun owners in California and other states have shown up en masse and armed for Starbucks Appreciation Days, meant to promote the open carrying of firearms in the majority of states where the practice is legal.
Acrimony over the guns-and-coffee demonstrations peaked in August in Newtown, the Connecticut community that was the site of a December 2012 elementary-school massacre, where substitute teacher and part-time Starbucks barista Lauren Rousseau was killed. Some residents of the town were so upset by the prospect of a pro-gun rally that Starbucks closed the Newtown store early on the afternoon of Aug. 9. About two dozen people still showed up at the closed café.
-- Washington Post-Bloomberg