Coffee chain Starbucks Inc. is sticking to its policy of letting customers carry guns where it's legal and said it does not want to be put in the middle of a larger gun-control debate.
The statement stems from recent incidents when gun owners have walked into Starbucks and other businesses to test state laws that allow gun owners to carry weapons openly in public places. Gun control advocates have protested.
Starbucks' backing of its policy comes ahead of a press conference on Wednesday by The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence near Seattle's Pike Place Market, where the first Starbucks cafe opened.
The organization has circulated a petition that has more than 28,000 signatures demanding that Starbucks "offer espresso shots, not gunshots" and declare its coffeehouses "gun-free zones."
Businesses can choose to ban guns from their premises. Starbucks said Tuesday that it complies with local laws in the 43 states that have open-carry weapon laws. Not to do so, the chain said, would make the chain "require our partners to ask law abiding customers to leave our stores, putting our partners in an unfair and potentially unsafe position."
It said security measures are in place for any "threatening situation" that might occur in stores.
Starbucks asked both gun enthusiasts and gun-control advocates "to refrain from putting Starbucks or our partners into the middle of this divisive issue."
© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.