Starbucks is brewing up some controversy these days by making a request to their customers: Please don’t bring your guns into our coffee houses. While not an outright ban, the appeal, made by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, comes after a group of gun owners celebrated the chain’s policy of allowing owners to carry their firearms into Starbucks, reports CNN on Sept. 18.
On August 11, thousands of gun owners from around the country gathered at Starbucks locations to celebrate the chain’s allowance of licensed firearms into their stores. Starbucks did not make any special regulation and they were not making a political statement; they are just following applicable state laws.
Nevertheless, this fairly simple appreciation day, advertised on Facebook and other social media, attracted the attention of protestors and activists.
One of the locations singled out for appreciation was a Starbucks location in Newtown, Connecticut, less than two miles from Sandy Hook Elementary school where twenty children and six adult staff members were fatally shot in December 2012.
“How can they even think of being here?” asked Barbara Kraushaar at the time, whose former neighbor Adam Lanza was responsible for the massacre.
On August 23, the grassroots organization Newtown Action Alliance posted an open letter to Howard Schultz on its website, asking the Starbucks CEO to ban guns in all Starbucks stores.
“If you make the decision to ban guns, your company has the chance to honor the 26 innocent lives lost here in Newtown and the 32,000 Americans lost annually to gun violence by becoming a leader in educating the public about firearm safety,” the letter read in part.
Schultz responded this week, saying that while he is not instituting a ban, he is making a request “through the lens of civility and respect.”
Customers who are carrying guns will still be served and will not be asked to leave, but Schultz is urging gun owners not to put his employees in a difficult position of having to referee a gun debate.
“We don't want to put our people in the position of having to confront somebody who's carrying a weapon,” the CEO said.
“We've seen advocates on both sides of this debate use Starbucks as a staging ground,” Schultz said, adding that Starbucks is “not pro- or anti-gun,” but rather, stating he believes guns “should not be part of the Starbucks experience.”
Schultz is ready to take the heat, but made it clear that these are not his personal opinions.
“I know there will be criticism of the company and me personally,” Schultz said. “We've tried to be as empathetic and as sensitive as possible. I don't think this is about Howard Schultz. This is about Starbucks Coffee Company, our customers and whether I am or am not a gun owner is not the issue.”