The debate concerning gun ownership and the right to carry arms in public areas continues to rage -- and now Starbucks has added its own take, asking customers to refrain from carrying while in its coffee shops.
The coffee giant's CEO, Howard Schultz, made the request in an open letter posted online on Tuesday and due to be published in newspapers this week. The letter says that the chain has been "thrust unwillingly into the middle" of the gun debate, and now "respectfully requests" that consumers no longer bring firearms in to outlets or outdoor seating areas.
The chief executive says that Starbucks has always aimed to fill the gap between work and home, and wants to offer a "safe and comfortable respite from the concerns of daily life." While Schultz realizes there is a sensitive balance between rights and responsibilities surrounding U.S. gun laws, the executive says that in states which support "open carry" laws -- which allows the general public to openly carry a firearm in public -- the debate has now become "increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening."
As a result, the "safe respite" of Starbucks may be threatened, and so the company wants customers to leave their weapons at home, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel -- whether the state in question permits carrying firearms openly or not.
The CEO clarifies that this is a request, rather than an outright ban. The executive says he knows he cannot satisfy everyone, gun owners should be given the right to respect the firm's wishes, and more importantly, "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."
A handful of retailers have banned the open carrying of firearms. While pressure has been placed on the coffee chain to do the same, gun rights advocates have celebrated Starbucks' past position with "Starbucks Appreciation Days."
Schultz, however, says that both sides of the argument have been using the coffee chain as a staging ground, "mischaracterizing [Starbucks] as being on one side of the issue or the other."
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