NPR Story
2:18 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Chipotle Asks Customers Not To Bring Guns

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 3:39 pm

Chipotle is asking customers to leave their firearms at home when they come to dine at the burrito chain.

The announcement was made Monday after gun rights activists carried rifles into the restaurant and posted images of them toting the weapons on social media.

Last fall, Starbucks asked customers to leave weapons at home, and says that the request has been respected by patrons.

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson talks with The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Bellini about gun laws and major chains.

Guest

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Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

This is HERE AND NOW from NPR and WBUR Boston. I'm Jeremy Hobson.

The restaurant chain Chipotle is asking patrons not to bring unconcealed weapons into its stores after an uproar from gun control advocates who were angry when pictures emerged online of customers with assault rifles in a Dallas-area Chipotle restaurant over the weekend. Jason Bellini of the Wall Street Journal joins us from New York with all the details. Jason, let's go back to the beginning. Why did people bring these assault rifles into this Dallas area Chipotle?

JASON BELLINI: Thanks, Jeremy. Well, it was triggered over the weekend by a gun rights demonstration. And they brought in these loaded assault-style rifles into a Chipotle near Dallas. And they're there to advocate for open-carry practices and the allowing of public displays of weapons.

HOBSON: And this sparked a lot of protest.

BELLINI: Well, it did from a group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. They launched a national petition calling on Chipotle's chief executive, Steve Ells, to prohibit firearms in its restaurants.

HOBSON: And Chipotle responded then by issuing a statement asking customers not to bring weapons into the store, but they're not issue a ban exactly.

BELLINI: Yes, pretty please, don't bring weapons. That was the message. They stopped short of instituting an outright ban on guns, which some say they're not even allowed to do. This is a company that has over 1600 restaurants, and their message was we hope that our customers who oppose the carry guns in public agree with us, that it is the role of the elected officials and the legislative process to set policy in this area, not the role of businesses like Chipotle.

So that was their sort of apology to those saying you've got ban guns, but they strongly encourage people to not bring guns into their stores.

HOBSON: Well, and I see that they say, you know, it may be awkward for an employee to be responsible for enforcing a ban if it were an outright ban.

BELLINI: Right. And that's - then they said they are not asking their employees to take any action or inform people of their dislike of guns in the restaurant. That's not the role of the servers there.

HOBSON: Now Jason, this follows something very similar that happened with Starbucks last September.

BELLINI: That's right. The frothy controversy at Starbucks when last August you had gun enthusiasts who held a nationwide Starbucks Appreciate Day. And so they went on Twitter, then Facebook, and they posted photos of themselves carrying their weapons. And they're there, you know, alongside their beverages. People saw this, unimpressed, and there too, you had the CEO coming under pressure, Howard Schultz. He responded publicly by saying that customers in many stores have been jarred by and feel uncomfortable to see guns.

And so, again, asking people, don't bring guns into the stores. And that same group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, well, they instituted Skip Starbucks Sundays as a protest against Starbucks for allowing people to come in. So, you know, these companies are between a rock and a hard place.

HOBSON: Well, and give us the big picture. How widespread is this kind of thing, asking customers not to bring guns into big chains?

BELLINI: You know, there's several other restaurants and companies who've instituted policies saying you can't bring guns. You've got CVS pharmacy. You've got Costco, Chuck E. Cheese's.

Costco's sort of an interesting example. You know, there's a group called Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, and they asked Costco's public relations department, you know, what, you know, why is it you're not allowing to bring guns into Costco? What's that's about?

And Costco's response was Costco is not a place of public accommodation, within the meaning of civil rights laws, and that the definition of public accommodation does not include private clubs, which Costco considers itself, Well, Costco is. Private club, so hey, you can't bring guns in there. But in other places it's a much more difficult situation. You know, with a Starbucks...

HOBSON: Right.

BELLINI: ...the majority of their stores are in states with open-carry law, some form of open-carry law.

HOBSON: Jason Bellini of the Wall Street Journal, thanks as always.

BELLINI: Thanks, Jeremy.

HOBSON: This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.