(MENAFN - AFP) Starbucks is asking armed customers to leave their guns at the door, but not banning firearms outright.
In gun-crazed America, with its epidemic of school and other mass shootings, the latest just this week in Washington, DC itself, some states allow people to carry licensed guns out in the open.
Starbucks has been thrust into the bitter national debate on tougher gun control laws because it defers to local legislation on carrying guns openly.
That has led opponents of stricter gun laws to stage so-called Starbucks Appreciation Days at some of its cafes.
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz said the coffee chain known around the world "does not want these events in our stores."
He said anti-gun activists have also been "ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction" by soliciting and confronting customers and employees.
Schultz said Starbucks finds itself unwillingly in the middle of the national 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," Shultz wrote.
This applies even in states where so-called open carry laws -- legislation that lets people bear a gun openly in public -- are in force, he said.
He insisted this is a request and not an outright ban.
That's for several reasons: the company wants to give "responsible gun owners" a chance to honor the request, and because a ban might force employers to confront customers with guns.
Also, "we cannot satisfy everyone," Schultz wrote. Legislatures are the place for the debate, not Starbucks cafes. People who support open-carry laws must understand that Starbucks outlets "are places where everyone should feel relaxed and comfortable," the CEO wrote.
"The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers," he wrote.