Starbucks has shifted its company policy on firearms, with CEO Howard Schultz asking customers to no longer carry firearms in the US coffee shop, even in states where “open carry” regulations allow citizens to bear arms in public.
In an open letter to customers, Mr Schultz said Starbucks was designed to offer, “a safe and comfortable respite from the concerns of daily life” and that “the presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers.”
Mr Schultz said Starbucks was issuing an appeal rather than a ban because it wanted to “give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request”.
He also said enforcing a prohibition in his shops would involve asking baristas to “to confront armed customers”.
The longstanding policy of the Seattle-based company on firearms has been to default to state laws, many of which permit the public to bring guns into shops.
However, the request was made after the company’s shops were targeted as a forum for pro-gun lobbying groups during the last six months.
Last month a Starbucks in Newtown, Connecticut closed its doors early in response to pro-gun group’s plan to hold a rally there in support the company’s liberal gun-carrying policies.
The planned event, labelled a “Starbucks Appreciation Day”, was spurned by Mr Schultz in his open letter to customers. The CEO said that such events “disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of 'open carry.'”
He added: “To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores.”
Mr Schultz’s letter signals a change in stance for Starbucks, a company which has historically distanced itself from the US gun debate.
When campaigners called for a clampdown on guns in stores during 2010 the company refused, saying that its baristas could be harmed if a ban was reinstated.
At the time the coffee company also balked at the idea of becoming involved in the dispute, stating: “The political, policy and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores.”
Regarding the shift in position, Mr Schultz told Reuters: “I'm not worried we're going to lose customers over this. I feel like I've made the best decision in the interest of our company.”