By Rebecca Shabad - 09/18/13 02:04 PM EDT
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is asking Starbucks customers to not bring guns into his stores, regardless of state laws.
In a letter posted on the company’s website late Tuesday, Schultz said, “[W]e are 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.”
He clarified, however, that his request is not an outright ban.
The announcement comes on the heels of Monday’s mass shooting in Washington’s Navy Yard that left 12 victims dead and several more injured. Schultz did not mention that incident specifically.
Starbucks was drawn into the gun control debate this year as pro-gun control lawmakers in Congress pushed for more stringent legislation in the wake of last year’s deadly shooting in Newtown, Conn. The proposals ultimately failed in the Senate, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) claimed Tuesday he does not have the votes to pursue it again.
In some states with “open carry” laws, where carrying guns in public is legal, business are allowed to ban them in their stores. Peet’s Coffee, IKEA and Disney are just some that have made that decision.
Starbucks, on the other hand, has been clear about its policy. In 2010, Starbucks reiterated that it must follow states’ laws.
“Starbucks long-standing approach to this issue remains unchanged,” a release said. “We comply with local laws and statutes in all the communities we serve. That means we abide by the laws that permit open carry in 43 U.S. states.”
In early August, gun rights advocates organized a grassroots campaign to bring guns into the coffee shops to celebrate Starbucks Appreciation Day — a campaign the company has not sponsored.
Schultz, in his letter, said he doesn’t want this happening in his stores because of recent events.
“We’ve seen the 'open carry' debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening,” he wrote. “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.'"
Early this month, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), along with Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), wrote a letter to Schultz lobbying him to enact a ban in his stores to help “foster a culture of peace.” They have been pushing stricter gun measures in Congress since the Newtown shooting in their state in December.
They asked Schultz to meet at Newtown’s Starbucks to discuss the issue, though in the CEO’s response, he did not commit to meeting them.
Starbucks closed that particular store on one of those appreciation days in August to preclude a standoff between gun control advocates and gun-rights groups. Connecticut is an "open carry" state, though it implemented stricter gun regulations last spring.
On Thursday, USA Today, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post will publish full-page advertisements announcing Schultz’s new request, according to USA Today.
In an interview with that paper Tuesday, Schultz said he has heard from a number of Starbucks customers who say they don’t want guns in the stores.
“The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers.”