NEW YORK — Starbucks says guns are no longer welcome in its cafes, though it is stopping short of an outright ban on firearms.
The fine line that the retailer is walking to address the concerns of both gun rights and gun control advocates reflects how heated the issue has become, particularly in light of recent mass shootings.
Most states allow people to openly carry licensed guns in some way and many companies do not have laws banning firearms in their stores. But Starbucks has become a target for gun control advocates, in part because of its liberal-leaning corporate image. In turn, gun rights advocates have been galvanized by the company’s decision to defer to local laws.
In an interview, CEO Howard Schultz said the decision to ask customers to stop bringing guns into stores came as a result of the growing frequency of “Starbucks Appreciation Days,” in which gun rights advocates turned up at Starbucks cafes with firearms.
Schultz said the events mischaracterized the company’s stance on the issue and the demonstrations “have made our customers uncomfortable.”
Schultz hopes people will honor the request not to bring in guns but says the company will nevertheless serve those who do.
“We will not ask you to leave,” he said.
The Seattle-based company plans to buy ad space in major national newspapers including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and USA Today on Thursday to run an open letter from Schultz explaining the decision. The letter points to recent activities by gun rights and gun control advocates at its stores.