Starbucks Takes Potshots at Gun Owners

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.

Concealed carry
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.

"Gun-spree zones"
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: SWHC  ) 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.

Shooting from the hip
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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2013, at 10:04 AM, TMFRedRam wrote:

    Rich,

    This doesn't seem fair to Schultz. You chastise him for disallowing concealed carry, but the letter never mentions concealed weapons -- it's only about open carry.

    Second, he continues to support open carry by law enforcement personnel, so this doesn't make SBUX a gun free zone.

    Finally, the 'gun free zone' argument overlooks the basic statistics of gun ownership. Let's look at Navy Yard. MD currently has 47,000 concealed weapons permits issued while VA has 279,000.

    The combined over 18 populations of the two states is around 10.7 million. That means only three out of every 100 people has a permit. It seems ludicrous to think that a 3% chance -- if every permit holder always carries -- of running into a gun owner is high enough to deter a mentally unstable criminal from committing a violent act.

    Gun free zones simply are not the problem and Starbucks has not made itself a target by penning this letter.

    Cheers,

    Andrew

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2013, at 12:52 PM, TMFCop wrote:

    Hey Andrew,

    I don't think a mentally unstable person would be deterred by anything, but I do think an armed citizen could stop an attack before it got worse. There are plenty of examples of armed citizens stopping a robbery or other crimes. I'd say there's a reason they're not highlighted more often.

    As for the Navy Yard incident, you neglect to mention that the people of D.C. where the installation is located, are essentially prohibited from defending themselves by gun. The district has the most draconian anti-gun laws around. Not only was the Navy Yard itself a gun-free zone, the entire district is.

    Even in gun-free zones the police are armed, but not always Johnny on the spot. There were four armed CERT team members from the Capitol Police ready and willing to assist before the DC police even arrived and they were told to stand down, effectively giving the shooter more time to kill and maim.

    I think because of Schultz's high profile he did his employees a disservice. And since he admits his blog post may have no effect since it's not going to be enforced -- relying instead upon the good nature of gun owners to abide by it -- why bother?

    I fully understand his desire to have Starbucks removed from the gun control debate, but he thrust himself fully into it by taking sides and that creates an unwarranted risk for his employees and his customers.

    Cheers,

    Rich

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2013, at 9:43 PM, russianwarthog wrote:

    If Starbucks does not want people who carry firearms in their stores, they can make such a policy. However, gun carriers can also choose not to patronize Starbucks shops. Starbucks' CEO appears to be putting his nose where it does not belong. Merchandizing and politics are normally not a good combination. Schultz might want to re-think his policy---it may not be good for the bottom line.

  • Report this Comment On October 05, 2013, at 12:25 PM, rbocock wrote:

    hi

  • Report this Comment On October 05, 2013, at 12:33 PM, rbocock wrote:

    I probably wouldn't carry a gun into Starbucks anyway, so no big deal for me. Also, since they won't refuse service, it is just a request that I will honor. What bothers me is a municipality banning employees from a legitimate business. Little people trying to big administrators. I'll eat where I please while off duty, chief. I'll obey the law and wishes of business owners. Try it!

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