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Starbucks ads to tell customers: Guns not welcome here

The coffee chain will run fill-page ads in major newspapers today.

Image: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File

STARBUCKS HAS ALWAYS set itself apart by taking strong positions on progressive political issues.

Now that reputation has landed the company in the middle of the heated national debate over gun laws.

Ban or no ban?

Today, the Seattle-based company will run full-page ads in major newspapers, telling customers that guns are no longer welcome in its cafes.

But Starbucks is stopping short of an outright ban, exposing the fine line it needs to walk on a highly divisive issue.

“We are not pro-gun or anti-gun,” CEO Howard Schultz said in an interview, noting that customers will still be served if they choose to a carry gun.

The move comes as the company finds itself at the center of a fight it didn’t start. In recent months, gun control advocates have been pressuring Starbucks to ban firearms, while supporters of gun rights have celebrated the company’s decision to defer to local laws.

About a month ago, Starbucks shut down a store in Newtown, Connecticut, early to avoid a demonstration by gun rights advocates. They had planned to stage a “Starbucks Appreciation Day,” bringing their firearms and turning the company into an unwitting supporter of gun rights.

Many states allow people to carry licensed guns in some way, but some businesses exercise their right to ban firearms. They can do so because their locations are considered private property. Starbucks isn’t the only company that doesn’t ban guns, but it has become a target for gun control advocates, in part because of its corporate image.

Schultz said he hopes people will honour 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.

image

Shannon “Batousaii” Dunne stands with a holstered Ruger Vaquero handgun and sips a Starbucks coffee drink while looking on at an anti-gun rally in Seattle. Pic: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

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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 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. The document instructs workers not to confront customers or ask them to leave solely for carrying a weapon.

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

Read: Why gun owners claim they need to bring firearms to Starbucks>

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Associated Press

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