Days after the Navy Yard shooting in Washington D.C. that left 13 people dead, including the gunman, Starbucks is asking its customers to leave their guns at home before entering their stores or outdoor seating areas.
In an open letter sent to newspapers around the country Wednesday, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz lamented on the growing number of "Starbucks Appreciation Day" events held by gun activists that have been popping up at numerous stores. The Seattle-based coffee chain has long honored local "open carry" laws in states that allow residents to a carry unconcealed firearms in public.
"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," said Schultz, whose position changed after the gun debate became heated and "uncivil, and in some cases, even threatening."
One Starbucks in Newtown, Conn., the town where a gunman entered an elementary school and shot and killed 20 children and six adults, closed early in light of a "Starbucks Appreciation Day" in August, to avoid becoming a political stage after groups on both sides of the issue began rallying on social media for supporters to come out to stores across the nation.
Though customers will not be turned away if they openly carry a weapon, Schultz asked for gun owners to respect the wishes of the company. The request does not apply to law enforcement personnel.
Only three states — California, Florida, and Illinois — and the District of Columbia prohibit the carrying of any firearm openly in public. New York, South Carolina and Texas prohibit open carry for handguns, while Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Jersey ban the open carrying of long guns such as rifles and shotguns.
This is not the first time Starbucks has switched policy in light of advocacy requests. Earlier this year, the chain banned smoking on its patios and storefronts and asked customers to refrain from lighting up within 25 feet of its stores. The company also prohibited electronic cigarette use from its locations.