Burrito giant Chipotle issued a statement this week requesting that patrons enjoy their guac but leave home their Glocks — joining a number of other U.S. franchises like Starbucks and Whole Foods that have requested customers not take along their firearms.
“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,” Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold told Al Jazeera in an email.
“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.”
Chipotle’s statement comes after guns-rights supporters last weekend photographed themselves with assault riffles at a Chipotle in Dallas, provoking opponents at Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to launch a petition to Chipotle.
But gun rights advocates tell Al Jazeera the request doesn’t amount to corporate policy and that chains like Chipotle and Starbucks are trying to avoid angering both pro- and anti-gun activists.
“These statements are carefully crafted to say, 'We are making the kind request that [you leave firearms at home], but we aren't — especially since it's legal – telling our [gun-toting] customers not to come here,’” said Erich Pratt, spokesman for Virginia-based guns-rights advocacy group Gun Owners of America.
“In that sense, they've tried to split the baby in half and appease both sides,” Pratt added.
Gun owners have organized no boycott of Starbucks or Chipotle, Pratt says, because many realize that the major enterprises have sought to avoid alienating either side in the political debate.
Still, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Shannon Watts, heralded Chipotle’s decision as a breakthrough.
“This is a crucial victory for our movement — not only because we can now feel safer to enjoy a burrito in Chipotle but because it sends a message to business owners everywhere that the safety of their customers must come first,” Watts said in an email to the press.
Chipotle’s statement is part of a trend, gun violence opponent Monte Frank, of the Newtown Action Alliance, told Al Jazeera.
Although not really tantamount to policy, the number of popular franchises making statements against guns “is expanding, which is terrific,” Frank said.
“There are many of us who do not want to see firearms in public places and feel firearms should be left to shooting ranges.”
In December 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where Frank’s daughter once went to school. Twenty of the victims were children.
In a gesture of support for people like Frank who don’t want to see firearms at their local Starbucks, the Seattle-based international coffee brewer released a statement similar to Chipotle's in September, saying guns were unwelcome but not banned.
Starbucks allows patrons to carry in firearms in public in states where it is legal. But the company was criticized when gun rights advocates planned an event at a branch in Newtown.
The branch closed early after an outpouring of anger from families affected by the Newtown massacre.