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Starbucks CEO to Customers: Leave Guns at Home

By Betty Wang, JD | Last updated on

Starbucks' CEO has a "respectful request" for gun-toting customers: Leave your firearms at home, please.

In an open letter, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz emphasized that this is merely a request, and not an outright ban or change to company policy.

Schultz also clarified that, unless a customer is an authorized law enforcement officer, the request applies to everyone -- even at stores in states where "open carry" is allowed.

Aiming to Stay Out of the Gun Debate

"We recognize the deep passion for and against the 'open carry' laws adopted by many states," Schultz wrote in his letter. But Starbucks should not be a forum for this debate, he said.

Starbucks' CEO specifically called out "pro-gun activists" who "have used our stores as a political stage for media events ... that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of 'open carry.'

"To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores," Schultz continued. "The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers."

Private Businesses and Gun Policies

Though Schultz's informal request doesn't change Starbucks' gun policy, some may be wondering: Can private businesses legally enforce their own gun rules?

In general, the answer is yes. Even in states with laws that allow the open or concealed carrying of firearms in public, there are limits when it comes to private property. Private property owners, including business owners, are typically allowed to set their own rules about firearms on their premises.

Many movie theaters, for example, prohibit guns, as do privately-owned shopping malls and theme parks, such as Disney World. Depending on the state, businesses may be required to post their handgun policies in a conspicuous place near a public entrance.

Schultz tells Reuters his open letter was not in response to any specific incident. But the issue had to be addressed, as more customers have been bringing guns into Starbucks stores in recent months, he said.

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