Gun Owners Predict Starbucks Will Suffer Financially Over Firearms Decision

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A 'Guns and Coffee' mug. (credit: John Domen/All-News 99.1 WNEW)

A ‘Guns and Coffee’ mug. (credit: John Domen/All-News 99.1 WNEW)

NEW YORK (CBSDC/AP) — In an about-face that is sure to ruffle the feathers of gun control opponents, 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 policies 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 recent months, in which gun rights advocates turn up at Starbucks cafes with firearms.

Last month, for example, the company closed down a store in Newtown, Conn., for the day after learning that gun rights advocates planned to hold a “Starbucks Appreciation Day” at the location. The store was near the school where a gunman killed 20 children and six women.

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 both gun rights and gun control advocates at its stores, saying that it has been “thrust unwillingly” into the middle of the national debate over firearms.

As for the “Starbucks Appreciation Days” being staged by gun rights advocates, it stresses: “To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores.”

But the letter notes that Starbucks is standing by its position that the matter should ultimately be left to lawmakers. Schultz also said he doesn’t want to put workers in the position of having to confront armed customers by banning guns.

The AP was provided a picture of a memo to Starbucks employees on Tuesday. Partners are instructed not to confront customers or ask them to leave solely for carrying a weapon.

Several companies do not allow firearms in their stores, however, apparently with little trouble. Representatives for Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Whole Foods, for example, said there haven’t been any problems with enforcing their gun bans.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which was formed the day after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, has been organizing “Skip Starbucks Saturdays” to urge the coffee company to ban guns at its stores. Participants take photos of themselves at competitors such as Peet’s that do not allow guns and post them online.

Shannon Watts, founder of the gun reform group, noted that Starbucks has taken strong stances on other issues. Earlier this year, for example, the company banned smoking within 25 feet of its stores, wherever its leases allowed. The idea was to extend its no-smoking policy to the outdoor seating areas.

“There’s a big difference in the connotation of someone holding a gun and someone holding a cigarette,” Schultz said.

In the meantime, Starbucks has become a symbol for advocates of gun rights. A website now even sells products bearing an altered version of the Starbucks logo, with the siren holding up a gun in each hand with the words “I Love Guns & Coffee.”

On February 22, gun owners in northern Virginia flocked to the coffee chain to show celebrate “Gun Owners Support Starbucks Day.” Event organizers chose the day for its trio of 2′s as a way to pay homage to the Second Amendment.

The event’s Facebook page explained: “The ’2/22′ represents both the specific day of this holiday each year, and also represents the three reasons that the Founders enshrined the pre-existing right into our founding document.

2 = defense of ourselves.
2 = defense of our families and communities.
2 = defense of our great country.”

A similar event seem unlikely for 2014.

Starbucks’s decision is upsetting gun owners who are predicting the directive will negatively impact the store’s bottom line.

Members of Virginia Open Carry, the gun advocacy group who organized the 2/22 event, have been venting frustrations on social media.

“I LOVED your coffee but I can’t support this decision,” Shawn Hanratty wrote on the group’s Facebook page. “You have capitulated to 100 pacifist and the result will be 100,000’s less customers. Thanks for the stock profits they have been sold today!”

Another group member posted an open letter to Schultz online.

“I am glad to see that you finally took a stand on the gun debate that has been circulating in our country,” Andrew Woods’ letter reads. “I am saddened that you decided to go anti-gun in your stores because I was a loyal Starbucks customer. . . I cannot speak for any other gun owner but I know I will not be spending a single dime in the store any longer.”

(TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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