Chipotle is asking customers not to bring firearms into its stores after it says gun rights advocates brought military-style assault rifles into one of its restaurants in Texas.
The Denver-based company notes that it has traditionally complied with local laws regarding open and concealed firearms.
But in a statement Monday, the company said that "the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers."
The announcement came after a petition by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which has called on other companies to ban firearms in their stores as well. The group said its petition was in reaction to open-carry gun activists appearing at a Dallas-area Chipotle restaurant over the weekend.
Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman for the group, said she thought the move by Chipotle was a "bold statement," especially considering its previous stance of complying with local laws.
Many states allow people to carry licensed guns in some way, but some businesses exercise their right to ban firearms.
NBC 5 contacted Chipotle for a response. A representative released the following statement:
The issue of gun ownership or gun rights has become one of the most contentious debates in the country. Chipotle has never taken a position on this issue, as we focus instead on our mission to change the way people think about and eat fast food.
Recently participants from an “open carry” demonstration in Texas brought guns (including military-style assault rifles) into one of our restaurants, causing many of our customers anxiety and discomfort. Because of this, we are respectfully asking that customers not bring guns into our restaurants, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.
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. 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.
We acknowledge that there are strong arguments on both sides of this issue. We have seen those differing positions expressed in the wake of this event in Texas, where pro-gun customers have contacted us to applaud our support of the Second Amendment, and anti-gun customers have expressed concern over the visible display of military-style assault rifles in restaurants where families are eating. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible citizens and we appreciate them honoring this request. And we hope that our customers who oppose the carrying of guns in public agree with us that it is the role of elected officials and the legislative process to set policy in this area, not the role of businesses like Chipotle.
We always welcome the exchange of ideas and opinions: it is one of the many things that make our country such a special place. But this issue is not central to the operation of our business, and we do not feel that our restaurants should be used as a platform for either side of the debate.
Last year, Starbucks Corp. also told customers that guns were no longer welcome in its cafes after it had to temporarily close a store in Newtown, Connecticut, to avoid a demonstration by gun rights advocates. The company said it shut down the store out of respect for the community, where 20 school children and six educators had been slain.
The Seattle-based coffee chain stopped short of a ban, however, saying it didn't want to put its workers in the position of having to ask people carrying guns to leave its stores. Its carefully worded decision also underscored how major companies need to walk a fine line on highly divisive political issues.