After years of waffling amid increasing controversy, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has finally asked gun-owners to stop carrying firearms in his stores. But that doesn't mean you can't carry your gun when you get your latte. Schultz and co. would just prefer you didn't. No signs will be posted, and employees are not to confront gun-owners toting their weapons.
"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,’" Schultz wrote in a letter posted Tuesday night. "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 continued.
Schultz’s decision is a marked change from company policy in the past. When I spoke to a Starbucks representative after Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a 100,000-strong coalition of mothers for gun reform, penned a CNN opinion piece on the company’s position in July, I was told that Starbucks simply followed local laws, permitting open carry or otherwise.
But it was precisely that different kind of non-stand that allowed zealous gun-owners to adopt Starbucks as a haven for open carry. In August, guns rights groups celebrated a "Starbucks Appreciation Day" by flashing their guns in Starbucks stores that allowed firearms. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, meanwhile, organized boycotts of the store, gaining more than 60,000 signatures on a petition asking the company to change its policy.
"We think that this is not just a huge win for American moms who are realizing their voices matter in gun reform, but also this is a sea change for gun culture in general," founder Shannon Watts told Co.Exist. "You have a worldwide business icon saying after decades it’s no longer acceptable to bring guns in his stores. This is just the beginning of making guns in stores just as distasteful as smoking and drunk driving."
But while Watts counts Schultz’s letter as the precursor to a definite ban in the next six to 12 months, she acknowledged that the move left room for open carry enthusiasts to either respect Schultz’s plea, or turn up the volume on their Starbucks activism. "Will [open carry advocates] stand down and find another place to get coffee, or go over the top and endanger customers?" Watts asked.
CJ Grisham, founder of Open Carry Texas, an organization which took part in Starbucks Appreciation Day by mobilizing gun-owners who carried "everything from deer rifles, to shotguns, to AK-47’s to AR-15’s" in Texas Starbucks stores, says he’ll leave the decision to drink Starbucks while armed up to his 6,000 members. Grisham also told Co.Exist that two local Starbucks store managers had already reached out and said that they would continue to allow open carry in their establishments.
"I think Starbucks is trying to play both sides of the fence," he said. "They’re trying to make their hippie, green, earth-loving side happy, as well as cater to gun owners’ fears."
But while Grisham says he’d at least he’d prefer a hard "yes" or "no" from Starbucks on open carry, he isn’t likely to be chugging frappuccinos under the company’s current set of rules. "I don’t think that I will support Starbucks," Grisham said. "[Howard Schultz] made his point very clear—that guns have no place in the Starbucks environment."