Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has an opinion on many hot topics, including gay marriage, but Schultz has avoided taking sides in the national gun debate, until now. Schultz’s non-stance on the issue was praised by pro-gun activists, who staged a Starbucks ‘Guns and Coffee’ appreciation day in August. The activists’ decision to use Starbucks as a political tool thrust the coffeehouse into the national spotlight and the plan seems to have backfired because now Schultz is asking customers to keep their firearms out of U.S.-based Starbucks stores.

In an open letter posted on the Starbucks website, Schultz said,

“Our company’s longstanding approach to “open carry” has been to follow local laws: we permit it in states where allowed and we prohibit it in states where these laws don’t exist. 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. We believe that gun policy should be addressed by government and law enforcement—not by Starbucks and our store partners.
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.
For these reasons, today we 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.”

The letter will also be published tomorrow as a full-page advertisement in several popular newspapers including USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

In an interview with CNN, Schultz states clearly that this is not a ban on guns as the company is not a policy maker; Congress and local legislative bodies make the gun laws, not Starbucks. Schultz explained that if Starbucks were to institute a ban on firearms in its stores, it would put employees in the uncomfortable situation of asking an armed patron to leave the store. Instead, Starbucks employees will serve customers that are carrying a weapon just as they would serve any other customer.

I have to admit, this stance makes me more nervous than the non-stance Starbucks previously took. In my opinion, the middle-of-the-road attempt to address the issue is going to cause more problems than the previous policy or an all-out weapons ban.

Although Starbucks employees aren’t going to personally address guns in the store, other patrons might. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of pro-gun activists continuing to carry their sidearms into stores in states where open carry is legal and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that anti-gun activists plan to confront gun-toting patrons.

While I applaud Schultz for standing up and trying to take control of the situation, at least as far as his stores are concerned, I don’t think he’s gone far enough. Schultz should either ban weapons outright or revert to his previous policy on the issue.

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