Starbucks asks customers not to bring guns into outlets

In this YouTube video, Terry Holcomb Senior is seen walking into a Starbucks in Huntsville, Texas with a rifle

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The coffee chain Starbucks has asked its customers in the US to stop bringing guns into its outlets.

Starbucks has not imposed a ban, but says guns "should not be part of the Starbucks experience".

The firm has recently become a focus for the pro- and anti-gun lobby, with supporters of the right to carry arms holding a Starbucks Appreciation Day.

But it said it wanted to give customers "a safe and comfortable respite from the concerns of daily life".

Starbucks has a policy of defaulting to local laws when it comes to whether people can take guns into its 7,000 US outlets.

The company's stance has won support from the pro-gun lobby, and in August campaigners staged an appreciation day at several outlets.

One location was to have been a Starbucks at Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six staff were killed in a mass shooting at a school in December. The outlet was closed before the event began.

'Thrust unwillingly'

The debate about US gun laws returned on Monday with the killings at a US Navy base in Washington DC.

In an open letter, Starbucks' chief executive Howard Schultz said the firm had been "thrust unwillingly" into the middle of the national debate over firearms.

Mr Schultz said the appreciation days mischaracterised the company's stance on the issue and the demonstrations "have made our customers uncomfortable".

He noted that "some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction".

Mr Schultz said he hoped that customers would honour the request not to take guns into outlets, but said those who ignore it will still be served. "We will not ask you to leave," he said.

In an interview later, he said: "I don't want to put our people in a position of having to confront or enforce a policy (when) someone is holding a gun."

An anti-gun lobby group, Moms Demand Action, has been organising Skip Starbucks Saturdays to urge the coffee company to ban guns at its outlets.

The group was formed after the Newtown school shooting. Its founder, Shannon Watts, said that Starbucks had taken a strong stand on other issues, including banning people from smoking within 25 feet (7.5 metres) of its stores.

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