Target is the latest US business that's politely asking gun-rights activists to keep their firearms out of its stores. CEO John Mulligan today published an open letter on the "complex issue" of open carry laws, which have come under focus in recent months thanks to brazen, audacious demonstrations by Open Carry Texas. The group's members have carried semi-automatic rifles into restaurants, stores, and other public settings. Their antics and images from the events have infuriated gun control advocates across the country, and even drawn scorn from the NRA — though only briefly. Now, like Starbucks and Chipotle before it, Target is discouraging customers from walking through its shopping aisles with a loaded gun in tow. "Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create," Mulligan said.

Target isn't banning guns outright; instead, the company is positioning its new stance as a "respectful request." That's the exact same language Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz used in a similar letter posted last year. The coffee retailer says customers have mostly honored his wish ever since. Despite last month's alarming public displays, Chipotle also stopped short of prohibiting firearms altogether. "We hope that our customers who oppose the carrying of guns in public agree with us that it is the role of elected officials and the legislative process to set policy in this area, not the role of businesses like Chipotle," a spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal last month. The companies that have taken a stand so far say they're main objective is to ensure a safe, relaxed environment for all customers. Throwing a AR-15 or another deadly weapon into the mix tends to complicate that goal.

Correction: This article originally stated that Open Carry Texas members carried automatic rifles during their demonstrations. The weapons are in fact semi-automatic.