Employees at Panera Bread strive to exist as symbols of "warmth and welcome." But not the kind of warmth that comes from the shell casing of a gun.
In a move unlike any other management persuaded by national campaigns to alter their gun policies, the CEO of Panera Bread is asking customers to leave their guns at home. Throughout the past year, members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have influenced various corporations to ban armed individuals from entering stores. The companies typically respond promptly to the petitions by asking clients to refrain from possessing firearms while dining or shopping at the various locations across the country.
A spokesperson for the pro-reform gun group said the moms and Panera management had discussed the possibility of a firearms prohibition in the months prior to the CEO's ultimate choice on Monday. But CEO Ronald Shaich proactively adopted new regulations, unprompted by a national campaign against his stores.
"Within our company, we strive to create Panera Warmth. This warmth means bakery-cafes where customers and associates feel comfortable and welcome. To this end, we ask that guns not be brought into this environment unless carried by an authorized law enforcement officer. Panera respects the rights of gun owners, but asks our customers to help preserve the environment we are working to create for our guests and associates," the company's management said in an emailed statement to msnbc.
To date, the bakery-cafe chain hasn't had issues with firearms at any of its locations, Shaich told CNBC.
The rules were effective immediately on Monday at Panera's more than 1,800 cafes, which are located in 45 states and Canada.
Employees at Panera will continue to follow state and local laws regarding firearms policies. Legislation regarding the open carry of handguns varies by state; local governments can enact regulations banning guns in a specific area within its jurisdiction, as long as management posts signs alerting patrons to the rules.
The chain's appeal comes as Moms Demand Action continues to request that the management at Kroger, the country's largest supermarket chain, prohibit armed customers from entering stores nationwide. Last week, members of the Indiana-based organization kicked their pleas up a notch by issuing print advertisements in several U.S. newspapers and on billboards to complement the petition they created on Aug. 18. In less than a month, more than 130,000 supporters have backed the appeal.
A Kroger spokesperson previously responded, expressing the company’s trust in its customers to act responsibly.
In the past year, the moms have been victorious with influencing seven different companies to change gun policies, including Chipotle, Target and Sonic Drive-In. They began their campaigns last August with a petition against Starbucks, following the 2012 shooting inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"We urge other national companies follow suit," Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said after Shaich's decision. "Until our leaders finally require background checks on every gun sale in this country, we demand that businesses act to protect their customers when lawmakers do not."