It’s your Glock or your grande soy latte. After being dragged reluctantly into the debate over gun legislation, Starbucks has announced that firearms will no longer be welcome at its 7,000 US coffee shops. Several national retail and restaurant chains do not allow guns on their premises, but until now Starbucks has chosen to defer to local firearms regulations, allowing guns in outlets in those US states with an “open carry” law.
As the fight over gun control has escalated, the coffee giant – which traditionally adopts a progressive posture on social issues – has found itself an unwilling focus for protest. In July, some 60 people toting firearms held an event at a branch in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Last month, gun rights advocates called a national “Starbucks Appreciation Day”, wearing their weapons to Starbucks outlets across the US to celebrate the firm’s supposed Second Amendment stance.
When gun lovers gathered at a Starbucks in Newtown, Connecticut – where 26 people including 20 children were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school in December 2012 – staff closed the branch early before the event could get underway. Meanwhile, the anti-gun lobby group Moms Demand Action has organised a series of “Skip Starbucks Saturdays”, designed to shame the chain into banning firearms.
In an open letter published on the firm’s website on Tuesday and addressed to “Fellow Americans”, Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz said events such as Starbucks Appreciation Day “disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of ‘open carry.’ To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores”
Mr Schultz has not gone so far as to issue a full ban on firearms in Starbucks stores, saying he did not want staff to be forced to confront armed customers. Instead, he wrote, he was making “a respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.”
The change in policy will also be announced with full-page advertisements in editions of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and USA Today.
Mr Schultz said that the company had made its decision about firearms before the shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington DC earlier this week, which left 13 people dead.