Gun control is a contentious topic in America, and one most businesses like to stay away from, as their clientele could easily fall on either side of the divide. With multiple mass shootings in America this year alone, people have chosen to make their opinions known.
Starbucks has decided to throw their hat in the ring, and while not a policy change for the company, is a divisive plea to their consumers and patrons.
Starbucks Chairman/President/Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz, in an open letter to the public, has made this statement:
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.
As it’s stated in the letter, this is not an outright ban of carrying firearms into a Starbucks, but a plea and request. This gives any and all gun owners a chance to respect their request and not have a ban forced upon them. This also skirts a potentially scary incident of having a Starbucks employee request an armed individual to leave the premises.
This announcement is made in light of recent “Starbucks Appreciation Days”, in which gun owners and gun supporters were to drink at Starbucks, perceiving them to be a champion of the “open carry” laws many states have. Schulz claims that the announcement is not in response to these incidents, nor in response to the Washington Navy Yard shootings earlier this week.
While tragedies are horrible and no company, business, or restaurant should be caught promoting or profiting off of them, they do force business owners to look at how they handle situations.
Does your restaurant lean towards more allowing guns or banning them? It may be a slippery legal slope to fall under, and a hard one to balance with your audience. You may lose customers if you announce a stance one way or another on this hot-button topic. At the same token, you may gain new customers if you make a stance. For example, if you declare that your restaurant is a “gun-free zone”, you may engage new customers who are appreciative of this stance, or new ones that feel safe in your establishment. On the opposite, if you embrace the right to bear arms, you may get new customers who applaud you for your commitment to their rights.
In any situation, think long and hard about your stance. If you don’t feel strongly either way, or are too worried for a negative response, you can always just not make a stance.