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I'll never forget when I, an East Coast girl living in Phoenix, noticed a sign in the window of a local bar reading, "Please no guns." Needless to say, I was aghast. "Bars have to explicitly ban guns here?," I wondered to myself. Yep, they sure do.
Arizona, like more than a dozen U.S. states, allows residents to openly carry firearms without a permit. More than 20 other states allow open-carry with a license, while only five, plus the District of Columbia, ban open-carry outright.
For those like me, who are uncomfortable with firearms, it can be more than a little unnerving to notice a handgun on the belt of the fellow behind you in line at Circle K. And considering the wave of violent gun crimes that have rocked the country in recent years, some companies are beginning to approach gun policies as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) issue. For these firms, allowing customers to openly carry guns inside their establishments can make the company appear complicit with its state's lax gun laws.
With that in mind, this week we tip our hats to companies that are braving the backlash and adopting sensible gun policies.
“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,” Schultz wrote. In the past, Starbucks followed state and local laws when it came to guns in its stores, but a wave of what Schultz called "uncivil" gatherings struck a nerve with company management.
"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," Schultz concluded, recognizing that open carry is a contentious issue but politely stating that it's a debate his company no longer wants to take part in.
Dallas-based Brinker International Inc., which owns the chain, said in a statement that it was dedicated to providing "a safe environment for our guests and team members," Business Insider reported last year.
Panera Bread CEO Ronald M. Shaich announced last year that the company will proactively ask guests at its 1,800 bakery-cafés to leave their firearms at home.
Arkadi Gerney, the senior vice president of the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress, had this to say: “In my experience working with Walmart in 2008, I found them to be extremely concerned about responsible gun sales. They definitely wanted to stay in the market and serve customers who wanted to buy guns, but they were very interested and responsive to ideas about how to make those sales safer and to make it less likely that the guns that they sell were ultimately misused.”
The company follows state and local laws when it comes to carrying guns in its retail locations, but employees are not allowed to bring firearms to work.
While the group's founder told Forbes the incident was not a political statement, just a meal after an event, it prompted the company to rethink its gun policies. Just a week later, Chipotle released a statement asking customers to leave their guns at home.
"Historically, we felt it enough to simply comply with local laws regarding the open or concealed carrying of firearms, because we believe that it is not fair to put our team members in the uncomfortable position of asking that customers refrain from bringing guns into our restaurants," Chris Arnold, communications director for Chipotle, told CBS News' Dallas-Forth Worth affiliate in a statement. "However, because the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers, we think it is time to make this request."
Brian Luscomb, the company’s vice president of corporate communications, told the group: “The presence of guns inside a restaurant could create an uncomfortable situation for our guests and employees and lead to unintended consequences.”
"'If you believe that our policy restricting members from bringing firearms into our warehouse stores is either unfair or excessively burdensome, or you cannot agree to abide by this policy, or you are dissatisfied for any other reason, Costco will promptly refund your annual membership fee in full."
“As the friendliest store in town, we work every day to ensure our staff, neighbors and customers feel safe and welcome in our stores. We’ve had a no-weapons policy in place for some time for our staff. We’re now respectfully asking our customers to leave their weapons at home too," New Seasons told activist group Moms Demand Action.
Know of a shop near you that has a similar policy? Drop the name in the comments!
Image credit: Flickr/Cory Doctorow