Starbucks at center of gun control debate

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Like it or not, Starbucks is back in the gun control debate.

People on both sides of the issue responded Wednesday to the announcement from Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz, who sent an open letter “respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas—even in states where ‘open carry’ is permitted—unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.”

Schultz said he isn’t calling for an outright ban on guns at Starbucks locations because such a ban would force employees to confront armed customers.

“That is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on,” Schultz wrote, adding that he knows he can’t please everyone.

Schultz said pro-gun activists have used Starbucks locations as a “political stage” for misleading media events that portray the coffee chain as a “champion of open carry” policies.

“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,” he wrote.

“We have chosen this approach because we believe our store partners should not be put in the uncomfortable position of requiring customers to disarm or leave our stores,” Schultz wrote.

“For those who oppose ‘open carry,’ we believe the legislative and policy-making process is the proper arena for this debate, not our stores,” he continued. “For those who champion ‘open carry,’ please respect that 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.”

Read the entire letter here.

“I think there’s going to be disappointment, certainly,” said local gun rights advocate Guy Relford. “Starbucks is going to be one of the few businesses out there that are going to say we don’t want guns on our property now.”

Gun control advocates called the decision a victory for their cause.

“We’re just very appreciative that Starbucks is siding with us on this issue,” said Nicki McNally with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. “We think this is huge, definitely a step in the right direction. We think this is just the tipping point.”

“As you know they’ve stopped short of prohibiting guns, they’ve just made a request,” Relford said. “I think different gun owners will react differently to that request. Many of us will respect that request, but we’ll also factor that in to where we get a cup of coffee in the morning.”

Some customers also said they questioned the move, while others said they applauded the decision.

“I think that it’s a good thing that Starbucks doesn’t allow guns,” said customer Carla Mascari.

“If somebody is already licensed… I don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to come in to Starbucks with their weapons,” said customer Shane Phillips. “It just doesn’t seem fair.”