Starbucks has announced a new policy asking gun owners to "no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas," a position that immediately began kicking up controversy for the coffee giant.
The new policy is, in effect, a soft ban as it will not be enforced. In an open letter posted on the company's website, Chief Executive Howard Schultz described the new policy as a request intended to make patrons comfortable. He said he did not want employees, such as baristas making your mocha, to confront armed customers. That "is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on," he said. (The company refers to employees as partners.)
Schultz's letter sought to speak directly to gun owners: "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."
The reaction to Schultz's letter was exactly what you'd expect -- sharply divided down the middle between people who believe weapons have no place in a public coffee shop, and those who believe Starbucks has no business wading into gun issues.
The division was apparent even on Starbucks' own website.
"If Starbucks doesn't like the second amendment then I can choose not to drink their coffee. Period," one person posted in a comment on the coffee chain's website. But another applauded Starbucks and suggested the coffee chain is wisely channeling into customer sentiment: "You are not pushing customers away, you are gaining more customers, trust me majority of people in this country want some gun control."
Schultz letter says the new policy comes as Starbucks stores and employees have been "thrust unwillingly into the middle of this debate."
He said Starbucks' long-standing approach has been to abide by local gun laws, and he added that he believes gun policy is an issue best left to government and law enforcement.
However, he said he felt compelled to take a public position on the issue because some pro-gun activists have used Starbucks outlets to host events that "disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of "open carry.'" He added: "To be clear: We do not want these events in our stores."
He went on: "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."
What do you think about Starbucks' new gun stance?