Starbucks CEO Schultz Says Guns No Longer Welcome
The next time you wander into your local Starbucks for a cuppa joe, check your weapon at the door. In the wake of multiple mass shootings and an increasingly touchy debate on gun control, java retailer Starbucks Corporation has asked customers to stop bringing their guns into its stores. CEO Howard Schultz made the request on Tuesday in response to rising incidents of patrons toting weapons with them when they stop for a cup of coffee.
In a policy that has often frustrated gun control advocates, Starbucks has historically deferred to local gun laws, including open carry regulations which allow people to bring guns into stores. Employees and clients alike have complained about the policy citing safety issues, but this is the first time that Starbucks has responded by requesting the weapons not be brought on premises. Schultz went to great lengths to reassure gun advocates that this decision did not constitute a ban of any sort and will not be enforced. Employees will continue to serve patrons with guns.
The move is likely to anger firearms advocates who recently held an appreciation day for the company in honor of its stance on allowing guns in its over 13,000 U.S. locations. In a rather bizarre twist, one of the locations for the nationwide event was scheduled in Newtown, Connecticut, the site of the mass shooting at an elementary school that saw 20 children and six educators gunned down. Starbucks wisely closed that location for the day before the event was scheduled to start.
In an atmosphere where gun control rhetoric and friction has been intensifying, Starbucks has become a focus for both sides, in part because of its liberal corporate aura. Ironically, gun rights supporters have been spurred by the company’s decision to defer to local laws. Activists pro and con the hot button issue have been increasingly using Starbucks as staging ground for their political views. The last thing the company wants or needs is to be in the center of a fractiously divided gun control debate.
Schultz made it clear that the request to not bring guns into U.S. stores was not in response to the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard this week. Nor was it in response to a request from the Newtown Action Alliance to ban guns in all of the company’s U.S. cafes. He noted that the decision is a direct result of the company’s concern for the best interests of its clientele, investors, and the company itself.
Starbucks plans to purchase ad space in major national newspapers on Thursday in order to run an open letter from Schultz explaining the decision. The letter details recent activities by both gun rights and gun control activists at its stores, pointing out that the company has been “thrust unwillingly” into the heart of the national debate over firearms, a place it clearly does not want to be.
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