An Open Letter from Howard Schultz, ceo of Starbucks Coffee Company
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.
Of course, it is only the gunfolk that are addressed.
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.
And, until this letter, you succeeded in this - profitably providing a public forum for the marketplace of ideas to play out. A more constructive approach would likely have been even more closely nuanced - for instance, simply barring long arms and political signage of any flavor.
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.
Regrettably, it appears you were more than a bit deaf when listening to the firearms community that went out of its way to support you in light of your simple tolerance.
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.
And it is this policy that had earned you the deep support of many gun owners, not as allies or advocates, but for simply treating us as customers of equal value with those of differing views. Many of us took that as a breath of fresh air and sought to reward your behavior by spending money with you - despite the fact that a fair number of those doing so, including myself, felt that you offered an inferior and deteriorating product. We even took you at your word and held our gatherings at your locations so that we might spend yet more with you - and considered your establishments a safe space.
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.
Characterizing events driven by gratitude as "misleading" when described as Starbucks Appreciation Days is more than a bit deceptive. The vast majority of these events were driven by a combination and a sense of competition - to see if the 2A community could spend enough to offset any losses you might suffer as a consequence of your neutrality.
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.
Please note that this request does not address open carry - that it is a request that NO FIREARMS be brought into Starbucks facilities - concealed, open, or magical. The earlier comments about Open Carry are a mere distraction - this is the money line, "keep your icky guns off our property - all of them."
Of course that translates as "leave your guns home, unguarded in your car where they can easily be stolen, or just don't patronize Starbucks - pretty please." I don't plan to disarm to bag a cup of inferior charcoal-flavored coffee, and I'm not a big fan of the Kerlikowske Option - leaving me with politely respecting the request to spend my money elsewhere.
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.
And now we have the veiled threat - comply or there WILL be a ban.
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.
Again, the open carry distraction. The request does not address open carry - it addresses all carry, open or concealed.
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.
Civility should be our watchword in this matter. Mr. Schultz has politely requested we not darken the door of his establishments - we should oblige. There are many mom and pop coffee shops with far better coffee and snacks (even the fancy stuff) that are struggling to survive in the shadow of the behemoth that doesn't want our business - let's go have some coffee where we are welcome...or where at least we've not been asked to leave.
Let me be painfully clear. As a private business Starbucks has every right to request anyone they like to leave for any reason they like or to set any expectation for behavior or viewpoint as a condition of doing business with them as may thrill their collective little hearts. Goodie for them.
Conversely, if we or any other group find their choices less than amusing we can express our dismay in a wide variety of ways. Presently, I favor politely honoring their request to not do business with them.