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Starbucks switches course; asks customers not to bring guns into its stores

Seattle -- Starbucks Corporation is requesting that customers no longer bring guns onto its property, either inside or outside its stores — even in states where “open carry” laws permit them to do so — with the exclusion of law enforcement personnel.

Company founder, chairman and CEO Howard Schultz made the request in an open letter posted under his name on the Starbucks website. The company plans to buy ad space in major national newspapers to run the letter.

In recent months, Starbucks has been thrust into the middle of the gun control debate. In August, Starbucks closed its store in Newtown, Conn., early after gun rights supporters held events there. At the same time, supporters of gun control have become more vocal that the chain, known for its progressive policies, put a ban on guns in its stores.

“In recent months, Starbucks stores and our partners (employees) who work in our stores have been thrust unwillingly into the middle of this debate,” Schultz wrote in the letter. “That’s why I am writing today with a respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.”

Schultz noted that the company’s longstanding “open carry” approach has been to follow local laws, which means permitting guns in stores in states where allowed and prohibiting it in states where such laws don’t exist. Most other retailers and restaurant chains follow a similar policy with regards to firearms.

“We believe that gun policy should be addressed by government and law enforcement — not by Starbucks and our store partners,” he wrote. “Recently, however, we’ve seen the “open carry” debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening. Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called “Starbucks Appreciation Days” that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of “open carry.” To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. Some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction, including soliciting and confronting our customers and partners.”

To read the full letter, click here.

© 2014