Starbucks Reverses Position: “No Guns, Please.”

No Guns And CoffeeIn a recent post on Voting With Your Wallet on gun rights, we lauded Starbucks’ use of common sense in in regard to their policy on firearm carry in their restaurants.  This week, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz issued an open letter (shown below) to the American people to “respectfully request” that customers no longer bring firearms into the 18,000 outlets it operates in 62 countries, while stopping short of an outright ban.

It may not have been a surprising outcome, however, with many gun rights advocates pushing the envelope on the company’s policy (and, perhaps, the boundaries of common sense).  The company’s previous policy was to defer to the law of the land – local, state and federal laws in effect at the restaurant’s location.  Thus, if the law allows concealed carry then the restaurant allowed concealed carry.  If the law allows open carry, then the restaurant allowed open carry.  And this is where the story starts to come off of the rails.  

A certain segment of the gun rights crowd saw Starbucks’ policy as a bastion of freedom in a dark mire filled with anti-gun companies.  Maybe they were right, or maybe it was just “the way it ought to be” with businesses allowing customers to exercise their rights within the law without making divisive political decisions.  Or maybe both.

In any case, some folks picked up the ball and ran with it.  It wasn’t long before some Starbucks locations were frequently teeming with masses of armed citizens, many with one or more long guns slung across their shoulders.  Of course, this type of behavior tends to cross a line from normal protection of yourself and loved ones into the territory of simply making a statement or doing something just because you can.  Schultz put it plainly: “To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores.”

Let’s put the “use it or lose it,” “rights are like muscles” and “but it’s allowed by law” rhetoric aside for a moment.  It doesn’t take a lot of mental gymnastics to see how large groups of conspicuously armed individuals shouting about their rights at gun rallies disguised as “Starbucks Appreciation Day” events will scare other customers away.  These activities pushed the company’s hand to reverse their policy.  Just as we are free to vote with our wallets to support (or not) a business, that business is free to vote with their wallet.  When the actions of these groups cause the business to start losing money (and, no, a few “buycots” likely don’t outweigh the lost business), the business is going to put an end to those actions, which is exactly what happened.

Feel free to use the comments section below, as well as the GunLink Forums, to further discuss the company’s decision, the “correct” way to exercise one’s rights and whether there even is such a thing as a “correct” way.

Schultz’s Open Letter:

Dear Fellow Americans,

Few topics in America generate a more polarized and emotional debate than guns. In recent months, Starbucks stores and our partners (employees) who work in our stores have been thrust unwillingly into the middle of this debate. That’s why I am writing today with a respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.

From the beginning, our vision at Starbucks has been to create a “third place” between home and work where people can come together to enjoy the peace and pleasure of coffee and community. Our values have always centered on building community rather than dividing people, and our stores exist to give every customer a safe and comfortable respite from the concerns of daily life.

We appreciate that there is a highly sensitive balance of rights and responsibilities surrounding America’s gun laws, and we recognize the deep passion for and against the “open carry” laws adopted by many states. (In the United States, “open carry” is the term used for openly carrying a firearm in public.) For years we have listened carefully to input from our customers, partners, community leaders and voices on both sides of this complicated, highly charged issue.

Our company’s longstanding approach to “open carry” has been to follow local laws: we permit it in states where allowed and we prohibit it in states where these laws don’t exist. We have chosen this approach because we believe our store partners should not be put in the uncomfortable position of requiring customers to disarm or leave our stores. We believe that gun policy should be addressed by government and law enforcement—not by Starbucks and our store partners.

Recently, however, we’ve seen the “open carry” debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening. 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.” To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. Some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction, including soliciting and confronting our customers and partners.

For these reasons, 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.

I would like to clarify two points. First, 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. Second, we know we cannot satisfy everyone. For those who oppose “open carry,” we believe the legislative and policy-making process is the proper arena for this debate, not our stores. 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.

I am proud of our country and our heritage of civil discourse and debate. It is in this spirit that we make today’s request. Whatever your view, I encourage you to be responsible and respectful of each other as citizens and neighbors.

Howard Schultz


One Response to Starbucks Reverses Position: “No Guns, Please.”

  • DangerD says:

    Guess what. Posting this from a Starbucks right now while carrying. Concealed means concealed. fwiw it’s not posted no guns anyway not that it makes a difference here.


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