Starbucks Declares Firearms “Unwelcome” but Still Plays Both Sides of the Gun Debate

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“[T]oday we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores.”

The underlining for effect was Starbucks’, not ours. Following America’s most recent tragic mass shooting—this time at Washington’s Navy Yard—it appears Starbucks, long a perceived and publicized ally for the pro-gun Second Amendment movement, has finally taken a side. 

Long before the most recent gun-related tragedies, including the Newtown school shootings and Aurora theater tragedy, Starbucks had unintentionally become a central figure in the pro-gun movement. As other chains moved to ban open-carry and concealed weapons from their outlets, Starbucks held fast in its position of abiding by state carry laws. While the company has seemingly ignored both the positive and negative attention it recieved for its stance, it has continued to be leveraged by activist groups, including a campaign dubbed “Skip Starbucks Saturday” that took place in August that was led by, in part, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. 

Perhaps the anti-gun protests and propaganda have worked, as CEO Howard Schultz has laid out an exceptionally reasoned plea to gun owners to refrain from carrying firearms in Starbucks outlets.[more]

Needless to say, the announcement has sent shockwaves through pro-gun groups, many which have staged “Starbucks Appreciation Day” events (with its doctored logo at right) at local outlets—events that will no longer be welcome at Starbucks locations, according to Schultz. “We believe that gun policy should be addressed by government and law enforcement—not by Starbucks and our store partners,” he wrote.

Unwillingly used as a stage by both sides of the debate, Schultz emphasized that the move to discourage weapon-carrying in stores is because, “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.” This isn’t the first time the company has taken a stand against open-carry displays, as in early August, it chose to close its Newtown, Conn. location early after rumors circulated that the location would be used as a meet-up for pro and anti-gun activists.

Granted, the move is not an outright ban—a detail that pro-gun lobbyists are hanging onto. The decision to not instill a ban could be viewed as an olive branch between Starbucks and gun owners, as well as one between gun owners and Starbucks employees. “We want to give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request,” Schultz said in his explanation. “Enforcing a ban would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers, and that is not a role I am comfortable asking.”

As expected, consumers have taken to the comments section and social media to react, with opinions seemingly split down the middle. 

While some tried to make light of the hotly-debated situation:

“At this point we’ll sit and monitor the situation,” Schultz told USA Today. “We’re hoping that most people will honor the request.” And if they don’t, Schultz said, “we’ll serve them with a smile and not confront them.”

While the decision is being declared a victory by anti-gun activists and an injustice by others, in reality, Starbucks is still walking the same, very thin line that technically allows it to not pass judgement on either party, leaving the decision to carry up to the customer—a mantra that is inherent to the forward-thinking company.

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