Starbucks Howard Shultz Open Letter: Calm Down, Gun Owners — It's Not a Ban

Starbucks are on nearly every street corner, their cups are in nearly every street trash can, and the company's chairman, president, and CEO, Howard Schultz, just took advantage of this omnipotence to ask customers to consider leaving their firearms (legal or otherwise) safely outside before entering the many Starbucks storefronts around the country.

Bravo, sir.

The effort is valiant, but the fact that this plea came from the chief executive of America’s most prevalent coffee company adds both credibility and obscurity to the seemingly perpetual debate.

It adds credibility because the Starbucks name carries weight with American citizens and Mr. Schultz is putting his reputation on the line for a cause he firmly believes in: preserving Americans' rights safely. The obscurity stems from the minimal connection between his firm and the gun industry.

I have a strong feeling that this will not sit well with a good portion of American residents who proudly exercise their Second Amendment right to carry guns, and the gun lobby in general. These advocates are notorious for jumping on prominent members of society (a distinction I believe Schultz has earned) who call on American citizens to decrease public gun-wielding, so the fallout from this brave "open letter" should be voluminous.

Though this will likely be classified as a public relations ploy by the National Rifle Association and others, Mr. Schultz’s statement should be heralded as an attempt to positively change the public discourse by using his own prominent position in the business world for a greater cause.

Recent and extremely tragic events in Washington, D.C., Newtown, Connecticut, Aurora, Colorado, and many other places undoubtedly inspired Mr. Schultz to immortalize this very public and simple request in cyberspace. The gun debate is age-old and citizens are entitled to their rights by all means, but small steps to decrease the risk of gun-related injuries (or worse) like this should be applauded and supported by both sides of the argument.

Below is the text of Mr. Schultz’s open letter. The original is available at.

An Open Letter from Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Posted by Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman, president and chief executive officer

"Dear Fellow Americans,

Few topics in America generate a more polarized and emotional debate than guns. In recent months, Starbucks stores and our partners (employees) who work in our stores have been thrust unwillingly into the middle of this debate. That’s why I am writing today with a respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.

From the beginning, our vision at Starbucks has been to create a “third place” between home and work where people can come together to enjoy the peace and pleasure of coffee and community. Our values have always centered on building community rather than dividing people, and our stores exist to give every customer a safe and comfortable respite from the concerns of daily life.

We appreciate that there is a highly sensitive balance of rights and responsibilities surrounding America’s gun laws, and we recognize the deep passion for and against the “open carry” laws adopted by many states. (In the United States, “open carry” is the term used for openly carrying a firearm in public.) For years we have listened carefully to input from our customers, partners, community leaders and voices on both sides of this complicated, highly charged issue.

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.

I would like to clarify two points. First, this is a request and not an outright ban. Why? Because we want to give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request—and also because enforcing a ban would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers, and that is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on. Second, we know we cannot satisfy everyone. For those who oppose “open carry,” we believe the legislative and policy-making process is the proper arena for this debate, not our stores. For those who champion “open carry,” please respect that Starbucks stores are places where everyone should feel relaxed and comfortable. The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers.

I am proud of our country and our heritage of civil discourse and debate. It is in this spirit that we make today’s request. Whatever your view, I encourage you to be responsible and respectful of each other as citizens and neighbors.

Sincerely,

Howard Schultz

Starbucks"




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Brian Principato

Brian works as the Director of Communications for an international business advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. He recently finished his Masters in International Trade & Security Policy at George Mason University.

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