US coffee giant Starbucks is asking armed customers to leave their guns at the door, but not banning firearms outright.
Several American states allow people to carry licensed guns freely despite the country's epidemic of school and mass shootings.
Starbucks has been thrust into the bitter national debate on tougher gun control laws because it defers to local legislation on carrying guns.
That has led opponents of stricter gun laws to stage so-called Starbucks Appreciation Days at some of its cafes.
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz said the coffee chain known around the world "does not want these events in our stores."
He said anti-gun activists have also been "ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction" by soliciting and confronting customers and employees.
Schultz said Starbucks had found itself unwillingly in the middle of the national debate.
"That's why I am writing today with a respectful request that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas," Schultz wrote.
This applies even in states where so-called open carry laws - legislation that lets people bear a gun openly in public - are in force, he said.
He insisted the directive was a request and not an outright ban.
That's for several reasons: the company wants to give "responsible gun owners" a chance to honor the request, and because a ban might force employers to confront customers with guns.
Also, "we cannot satisfy everyone," Schultz wrote. Legislatures are the place for the debate, not Starbucks cafes. People who support open-carry laws must understand that Starbucks outlets "are places where everyone should feel relaxed and comfortable," the CEO wrote.
"The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers," he wrote.
The Starbucks blog drew a mix of hurrahs and derision of the CEO's request and lots of snotty sparring between the two sides in the bitterly polarized national gun debate.
"Well. I will no longer (be) buying coffee from you (and) your liberal ball less leaders. loved your coffee,spent 60 to 100 dollars a wk there, on myself and employees. see ya, you coffee money grubbing libs," read a blast from email@example.com.
To another person who vowed never to set foot in Starbucks again JFTrochez wrote: "I also have a right to not be bothered by people thinking their 'rights' are more important than me enjoying a cup of coffee safely. Me and everyone else not psycho thank you for no longer coming to Starbucks."