Starbucks is now asking customers to leave firearms behind when they are in its stores and outdoor seating areas.
The coffee giant previously maintained a policy to allow patrons to openly carry firearms within Starbucks stores, so long as “open carry” was permitted in the relevant state.
Howard Schultz, the company’s chief executive, called the policy change “a request and not an outright ban” in an open letter posted on Starbucks’ website late Tuesday night.
Schultz tells The New York Times, “Customers in many stores have been jarred and fairly uncomfortable to see guns in our stores, not understanding the issue and feeling that guns should not be part of the Starbucks experience, especially when small kids are around.”
Schultz says that the policy change does not mean that baristas and employees will refuse service to those with guns within holsters, though; Schultz also added that there will be no signs warning of the change of policy, or the policy itself.
The decision to discourage guns in Starbucks stores comes in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting on Monday.
Starbucks’ previous policy of allowing open carry made many Starbucks stores across the country hotspots for both gun control supporters and open-carry advocates.
Referencing the Newtown, Connecticut store, Schultz said in his open letter, “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,” he said in the letter.
“I want to make it very clear that Starbucks is not a policy maker and as a company we are not pro- or anti-gun,” Schultz told The New York Times. “However, there have been a number of episodes over the course of the last few months that have put us in a position to take a big step back and assess the issue of open carry.”