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Starbucks and Firearms

Howard Shultz, the chairman, president and CEO Starbucks Corporation, released an open letter today that discusses the company’s firearms policy. In short, Mr. Schultz is asking people to no longer bring firearms to Starbucks stores or outdoor seating areas. However, that doesn’t tell the entire story.

A lot of folks in the firearms community are upset about this letter, but I’m not, nor am I surprised really. My only surprise is that it has taken Mr. Shultz this long. To explain, let’s first examine how we got here.

Since at least 2010 (it may have been going on before 2010, but that’s when it hit my radar) gun control groups have been organizing various boycotts of Starbucks because of their corporate firearms policy. In response to these boycotts, the firearms community organized events like the Starbucks Appreciation Day as a sort of counterbalance to the anti-gun crowd.

Starbucks’ stance on firearms was pretty simple: they wouldn’t implement any gun policies that added to or took away from Federal, State and local laws. In 2010, Schultz said the following to ABC News.

We woke up one day and all the sudden Starbucks was in the middle of this political crossfire between the people who want to bring a gun into Starbucks and the people who want to prevent it. It is a very difficult, fragile situation. We’re trying to abide by the law. I’m not a politician. I run a coffee company and we’re trying to abide by the laws in which we do business.

It didn’t stop there, with escalation from both sides. On the pro-gun side, there have been all kinds of open carry demonstrations, some that went off without a hitch, some that were a little bumpy. On the anti-gun side, the boycotts have expanded, and politicians have gotten involved.

Starbucks share priceNow imagine that you are Mr. Shultz with a business to run, shareholders and a board to report to. Granted, Starbucks corporation has been doing quite well in recent years as is evidenced by their share price, but this escalating fight is quickly reaching a boiling point.

Starbucks became a stage prop for both sides of this argument, and it’s clear that they want no part of it. Be honest with yourself, can you blame them? No matter what they do, they are going to upset someone.

As I’ve said all along, I support open carry the same way I support concealed carry. I’m against any and all carry licensing programs. No, I shouldn’t have to take an exam created by a politician and pay an extortion fee in order exercise a God-given right.

In short, I’m for Constitutional Carry – the Second Amendment protects my right to carry a gun however I choose to carry it. If I owned a coffee shop, I would give a discount to anyone carrying a firearm, whether openly or concealed, and if I was Mr. Shultz, I would tell the anti-gun crowd to pound sand.

Having said that, please notice that I said “however” and not “wherever” with regards to carry. If we are truly going to support liberty, then we have to respect the rights of others, even if we don’t agree with them. A business should have the right to refuse service to individuals for any reason.

Where does this leave us?

No policy changes have been made by Starbucks. Concealed carry in Starbucks remains unchanged and was never a part of this debate. Open carry in Starbucks remains unchanged, but Mr. Shultz is asking customers to no longer open carry firearms in their stores.

The bottom line is that Starbucks isn’t refusing our business, and they aren’t banning open or concealed carry. They are trying to placate both sides of this argument, quietly back out of the spotlight, and they want the open carry demonstrations to stop.

They want to sell coffee.

Open Letter

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.


Howard Schultz

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28 Responses to Starbucks and Firearms

  1. Eric September 18, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Well said, Brandon. The “Guns and Coffee” folks have unfortunately handed a victory to the Feinsteins by forcing this issue on an unwilling Starbucks. Agree or disagree with what they did, they didn’t want to be a part of the debate.

  2. Ty September 18, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    Very well stated. I agree.

  3. Kevin September 18, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Brandon, you did a very nice job expressing your position while still being fair and respectful to the other side. Well done! I wish everyone, on both sides of the aisle, would do this more often.

    • Brandon September 18, 2013 at 9:46 am #

      Thanks Kevin.

  4. TK September 18, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    Best article I’ve seen on this topic, everyone else is going batshit crazy. There’s nothing to see here people…they just want the political theater to stop.

  5. Jake September 18, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    Agreed, but let’s be honest. Those hippies are no friends of the 2A.

  6. Nick September 18, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    “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.” This does not single out open carry while allowing concealed carry. I don’t get why so many people are only seeing this effect open carry when it clearly says don’t come in to Starbucks with a gun (unless you are a cop)…

    • Brandon September 18, 2013 at 10:10 am #

      The wording may be a bit confusing Nick, but the bottom line is that 1) it’s a request only, and 2) no changes have been made to corporate policy. Concealed means concealed, no one will know and as long as you are obeying Federal, State and local laws, Starbucks doesn’t need to know or care.

      Personally, I don’t think Starbucks is particularly pro-2A or pro-liberty, I don’t think their coffee is particularly good, I rarely shop there, and I’m not defending them per se. I am however suggesting that people look at the situation impartially and not jump to conclusions. Starbucks is not banning firearms in their stores.

  7. Lane September 18, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    At first, my kneejerk reaction in reading Schultz’s letter was one of anger and disappointment, but thanks to your calm and rational dissection of the situation, Brandon, it is plain to see this was the only route Starbucks could take and still remain neutral. Thanks for that.

  8. Jim September 18, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    No problem with his letter, that is his, but a right that is recognized and respected and then is tepidly supported will soon be not be respected at all. The next demand from the hopolphobes will be that Starbucks flat out ban all firearms in their businesses. With the hopolophobes the only thing they will accept is a total ban. The Boy Scouts have done the same thing and they now face new demands to allow pedophiles to be Scout Masters.

  9. Todd September 18, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    To go one step further, lets be honest, this isn’t even really about open carry. It about the youtubers ( ) who have no reason other than to make a point by carrying their AR-15’s and other rifles as they sit outside a star bucks. Really? A rifle? How about respectable and real open carry. If there is a need to carry a rifle to make a point about open carry then do it on public property. I can’t believe it took Star Bucks this long. I am a loyal Star Bucks customer and always will be.

    Brandon, thank you for a well done article.

  10. Dustin Cade September 18, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    People showing up and sitting outside with AR15s and calling it “Starbucks appreciation day” is pretty crappy thing to do to a company who were already on your side. I think just getting coffee there and being happy a company had this stance and letting them know you are getting coffee there because of their stance would have been a better idea. I conceal carry everyday, I carry a gun for defense not as a fashion accessory, nor do I wish to draw unneeded attention to the fact I carry a gun. In my opinion open carry leaves me more at a disadvantage in most defensive situations. We should concern our selves with making sure we dont lose the gun control battle by being what anti gunners say we are, crazy gun toting idiots who cause more of a danger to our selves and society than we benifit. There are always going to be people who fear and hate firearms and think they should be banned, I think with them out of sight out of mind might work better than trying to convert… We have to be vigilant, smart, and watch our Ps and Qs to make sure our efforts to win this battle don’t lose it for us….

  11. Dustin Cade September 18, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    by out of sight of mind I mean, if the anti gunner doesn’t know there is a gun than they aren’t afraid of the gun…

  12. ARoberts September 18, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    Thank you. I have been saying pretty much the same thing since last night when everyone went batshit crazy over this. I am glad that I am not the only pro 2A person out there who thinks this way.

  13. beecozz September 18, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    Starbucks brought this fight to themselves, I for one DO NOT BUY COFFEE FROM THEM, the CEO, does not want the business from people like me who support traditional marriage. He said so in a statement to his shareholders. Even though your explanation seems very “balanced” you too easily explain away the real danger of their influence as being motivated by wanting to “just sell coffee”. They will eventually ban guns, just wait, you’ll see! Gun groups that supported Starbucks Appreciation Day got played!

    • Brandon September 18, 2013 at 11:16 am #

      I’m not worried about the danger of their influence, but I respect your opinion.

  14. Ernest September 18, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    “If ye LOVE WEALTH BETTER THAN LIBERTY, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!” – Samuel Adams

    • Brandon September 18, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      I love this quote by Sam Adams, but I don’t see how it pertains to Starbucks. A corporation cannot take away your liberty and enslave you. Don’t agree with the corporation (I certainly don’t as I have made clear)? Shop elsewhere.

  15. pase doble September 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    The whole Starbucks thing kinda made me cringe. I supported them by showing up in a Ruger shirt on MDA’s boycott day and tipped everyone with a 2$ bills. I didn’t OC, it just felt too me like I would be saying, “See, See, I can carry and you can’t do anything about it MDA!” I get it, I really, really do. I have a quiet anger about the stupidity of gun grabbers. I strongly support 2A groups as much as I can afford, sometimes more than I can afford!! I kind of felt it would go this way and hoped we would all wear our 2A/NRA/Monderno( wink,wink) gear and tip employees with a blizzard of 2$ bills. I never liked their coffee anyway and just tossed it in the trash outside. Just the way I worked it.

  16. Hillbilly Bob September 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    I am for open carry, i used to get mad when I seen open carry videos on Youtube and it seemed like the OC people were just trolling for a payday
    But lately I have seen videos, like the 4 girls in Missouri where the cops were ignorant of the law, and the cops being assholes and spouting laws that didn’t exist and basically harassing the girls so I am all for videos that expose the cops and make the cops learn and follow the laws
    I saw the San Antonio video and I cringed, If someone wants to walk the streets until the cops show up then more power to them but camping out in a business until the cops show up puts that business in a bind because the anti gun libtards see the video and swoop in and say to the manager “See, all of those gun people are bossy and nuts and are nothing but bullies” which puts the manager and business in a bind
    Starbucks stayed in the middle but now open carry people will be asked to leave and then what?
    Sometimes gun people are our own worst enemies, a lot of times we band together and when we band together we have a much louder voice

  17. Chris Johnson September 18, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    I really cant afford a very concealable firearm right now, all I have is a glock model 22, a full size .40 S&W caliber gun.
    I live in northern Nevada and summers here just get to dang hot to conceal carry a huge glock. I’ve tried vest but they generally are still to warm .

    I will continue to carry as I see fit, most folks in Reno and surrounding areas do not notice or if they do they simply do not care one way or the other.

    A few times cops have looked me over in Starbucks while I was open carrying, and I have noticed a tendency for people to say “sir” more often.

    I like Starbucks a lot, I like Cafe Verona especially. I bought a brushed steel french press from them that has proven reliable and unbreakable for years.
    I like that they have always had benny’s for their employee’s.

    If I lived in an area that had a lot of folks that can’t mind their business I guess I would conceal – but I don’t – here in Reno/Sparks northern NV its hard to find people with an opinion on anything, especially a well informed articulate opinion.

    It’s not even live and let live, its more like “leave me alone”.

    Thanks for a great blog Moderno.

    • Jake September 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      Chris – if you stop buying Cafe Verona, you might be able to afford a G27 😉

  18. Moon@VigiTac September 18, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Great write up Brandon.

    Many Pro Gun activist (really any activist but this relates to the topic) need to stop trying to force-feed their views down people throats via planned open carry meet ups especially with long guns. It didn’t work for your mom trying to get you to like liver as a kid and it won’t work for our cause. It does nothing to educate and ultimately you’re looked at as a bully. If you’re open carrying for politics then your carrying for the wrong reason. Buy a pro-gun T-shirt and bumper sticker instead…it’s cheaper and won’t have negative impact on those of us who prefer to roll “grey”

    The majority of people in this world just want to go on with their lives and be left alone and don’t want to get drug into someones politics while going about their day to day avtiities. When you force them to participate unwilling in your cause they will likely always go against it. There are better ways to support your cause than making mom and crew drink coffee and talk about knitting while sitting next to you and your AKR with Beta Mag in the low ready.

    I’ll still drink Starbucks. It was always a coffee shop to me, not a political battleground. I’ll happily sit in there with moms, dads and dirty hipsters while considerately carrying and no one will be the wiser

    Life, live it by the Golden Rule.

  19. elimn8u September 18, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

    The CEO of Starbucks may have wanted to stay out of the fray, and he had been doing so by taking the stance that all they wanted to do was to “sell coffee to people that wanted it”….well he stepped into the middle of it by now saying he just wants to “sell coffee to people but if you have a gun leave it outside”. I am not a propopent of OC, don’t do it myself. I don’t like the idea of using the ownership of a gun as a political tool as it seems some may have done. The CEO could have handled this much better if he felt the need to release a statement at all by just saying that he would just request that people who choose to practice their 2A Rights in his shops do so respectfully and discretely……but that wouldn’t have not placated the leftists who do want an official ban, and in the end his request will just piss-off both extremes…one by not going far enough and the other by going too far.

  20. perna September 18, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    First of all, He is free to run his company as he wants, it is a free Country.
    He did not ask people to stop open carrying, he asked people to not bring guns inside or outside of the stores. I might have a bit of respect if he just wanted the open carry to stop, but that is not what he wants. He also spit in the face of anyone who supported the company for “Starbucks Appreciation Days”, he fails to mention that those days were boycott days by the anti-gun groups. Gun owners stepped up to support a company that stayed out of the debate and was not caving to the anti-gun crowd. Talk about lack of appreciation, a simple thank you would have been nice, even if it was followed by please stop doing it.

    Where does this leave us? As gun owners we got the shaft by this company. Half the anti-gun groups are taking this as a win, the other half are not only continuing their boycotts, but are working on stepping it up until they ban guns completely. SO that leaves gun owners with the option of just stepping aside and letting the boycotts go unchallenged or going against the CEO’s request, either way the gun grabbers win. On top of that the anti-gunners will be using this as leverage to force this on other companies. If you think supporting this company will have a positive effect on gun rights you are crazy, he picked the people that boycott his company instead of the people that stepped up and supported it.

  21. hardh8 September 20, 2013 at 7:24 am #

    I love coffee and yes they are a private corporation so they can do what they want. But I’ll never shop at starbucks ever again. So they have insulted my side in this political war. They’ve no got to pay the price.

  22. hardh8 September 20, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    That should have read “they’ve got to pay the price.”

  23. Tandy Maskew September 30, 2013 at 10:48 am #

    Star Who??????
    If any company doesn’t allow my gun then I won’t come in either.