Panera to Customers: Please Leave Your Guns at Home

(St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT) -

Panera Bread is joining Target Corp. and a few other big companies in asking customers to leave their guns at home.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, formed as a result of the Sandy Hook school shootings in Connecticut in 2012, said Monday that Panera’s decision came after months of talks.

“We are thrilled that after months of discussions between Panera and Moms Demand Action, Panera is taking a proactive position in favor of our families’ safety by putting a new gun policy in place,” Shannon Watts, the group’s founder, said in a statement. “Moms are the consumers-in-chief of our households and we will reward companies that take a stand for our families’ safety.”

Ronald M. Shaich, CEO of Panera, said in a statement that the Sunset Hills, Mo., company will “proactively” ask customers at its 1,800 bakery-cafés in 40 states to leave their firearms at home. The company said it respects the rights of gun owners but will ask that firearms not be brought into its stores unless carried by “an authorized law enforcement officer.”

Target announced in July that it would begin asking customers not to bring firearms into its stores, even where doing so is allowed by law. A company spokeswoman said Target’s move was a “request and not a prohibition.”

Moms Demand Action had gathered nearly 400,000 signatures for a petition asking Target to change its policy on the “open carry” of firearms in its stores.

The group has said it is responsible for getting several chains, including Chipotle, Starbucks and Jack in the Box, to ask customers not to bring guns into their stores. Moms Demand Action began its campaign after gun-rights groups carrying loaded rifles gathered in Target stores to demonstrate in support of “open carry” laws.

Moms Demand Action’s latest effort is aimed at Kroger, the Cincinnati-based grocery chain. The group said it began in August a petition effort and a campaign of billboards, print and digital ads to get Kroger to prohibit the open carrying of guns in its stores.

“Panera’s smart announcement stands in stark contrast to Kroger, which has refused to adopt a similar policy despite numerous incidents of gun violence and people openly carrying rifles in their supermarkets,” Watts said. “With a patchwork of lax gun laws and background check loopholes in states across America, businesses like Kroger have a duty to respond to public safety concerns by adopting uniform policies that ensure we can take our children to the grocery store and not have to worry about being confronted by customers carrying semiautomatic rifles who may have never gone through a background check or safety training.”