Responsible gun owners are no longer welcome at Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX). CEO Howard Schultz penned an open letter on the company blog saying he no longer wants responsible gun owners that are legally allowed to carry their weapons to come to his stores wearing them.
Criminals, of course, can and will still patronize the establishments while carrying a concealed weapon because they don't care about Starbucks' policy, Schultz's request, or the law, for that matter.
The gun control debate is fractious to say the least, and the java slinger's policy until now has been to forbid the concealed carry of weapons in its stores in states where it is prohibited and allow them in states where it's not. But because the stores have become political rallying points for both sides, Schultz says he wants gun owners to stay away while in possession of their guns. He's not outright banning them, however, because if one showed up in his store, he doesn't want his employees confronting an armed individual -- as if a gun owner is just going to shoot the employee because of it.
Presumably, though, Schultz isn't following the example of one Denny's (NASDAQ:DENN) restaurant that earlier this year forbade plainclothes detectives from the local police department from carrying their guns while eating. Although the company tried to placate the police afterward, saying it was a mistake and they welcome police officers in the restaurant, the chief banned both on- and off-duty personnel from dining there, noting "This policy effectively prohibits on-duty sworn police officers from dining in a Denny's Restaurant, but allows 'registered sex offenders,' 'felons' and/or 'pedophiles' to enjoy a dining experience in Denny's." Reuters does report that Starbucks exempts the police from its policy.
Yet there's an interesting phenomenon developing around these mass shootings: They all seem to occur in so-called "gun-free zones." From the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting to the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, to even the Ft. Hood massacre and the shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., the other day, these are all places that have strictly enforced and sometimes publicly touted, as in the case of the theater, a "no guns allowed" policy.
One would think because of the high profile Schultz attached to his memo, he's effectively announced all of his coffee shops are now "gun-free zones," too.
Shooting themselves in the foot
Some retailers have also responded to these tragedies with their own emotional reactions, oftentimes to their own detriment. Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS) banned the sale of handguns and modern sporting rifles at its stores after the Sandy Hook shooting, only to miss out on one of the biggest jumps in gun sales that continues to today. It's trying to get around its own policies by opening up Field & Stream-branded stores that will sell those weapons.
Both Sturm, Ruger (NYSE:RGR) and Smith & Wesson Holdings (NASDAQ:AOBC) enjoying unprecedented sales growth, and the FBI reports that criminal background checks, which are a precursor to buying a firearm, are running more than 20% ahead of last year, which was a record year itself. Ruger just opened its third manufacturing facility, marking the gunmaker's first major expansion in more than 25 years.
Starbucks, of course, has a right to enforce whatever policy it wants, and when one thinks about it, a coffee shop where people of all persuasions, political affiliations, and beliefs congregate isn't the best place to hash out these differences. As Schultz noted, gun policy is best left to legislators and the police, not its restaurants.
But a month after gun owners held a Starbucks Appreciation Day, the potshots this open letter represents is a fine thank-you to them.
Fool contributor Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.