What Happened: An increasing number of fast-casual restaurants and retail outlets are “respectfully” asking patrons to leave their guns at home when they dine. Panera Bread, with its 1,800 bakery-cafes spread across 45 states and Canada, is the latest to join this gun-free dining effort. On Monday its CEO Ron Staich asked customers to help keep the restaurant “an everyday oasis” and not let it become “a battleground for political opinion.”
The St. Louis-based Panera now joins Starbucks, Chipotle, Jack in the Box and other chains that have recently spread their “please come in and buy our food but don’t bring guns here” message. “We are building communities in our cafes where people come to catch a breath,” Staich told CNBC on Monday. That echoes the message Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shared last September when he issued a “respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas.”
In other words – guns and butter are now being served separately.
Why It Matters. The request was naturally applauded by gun safety advocates, some of whom have been hard at work on this issue ever since the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which is funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was instrumental in convincing Panera to act The Christian Science Monitor reported. The group, which objects to support for open carry, is now approaching the Kroger grocery chain for gun-free zones as well.
Gun rights backers see the development quite differently – with some vowing not to patronize the “offending” restaurants. “I was just there [at Panera] yesterday but I sure won’t be there in the future,” one reader of the Lucianne website posted yesterday. Another wrote, “My wife and I were in one of their stores last Saturday and we were both armed, and here´s the secret – no one knew!” Still another wrote, “Every mass shooting has been in a gun free zone (regardless of how it is worded) and that leaves the client/customer vulnerable to a mass shooter.”
What It Means to You. Panera, Starbucks and others have stopped short of banning guns in their stores. Instead, they’re taking a middle-ground approach so as not to choose sides in the increasingly heated gun debate in this country. Neither are they publicizing their “requests” by posting signs or anything else – and they’re loathe to try to enforce the request. Target, which has also asked customers to leave weapons at home, does not post signs either.
So despite the polite requests to leave weapons at home, which excludes those carried by authorized law enforcement personnel – patrons are wise to understand this new effort as more a grassroots effort than anything hard-and-fast or enforceable.
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