Panera Bread to customers: Guns are allowed but not really by Phil Wahba @FortuneMagazine September 8, 2014, 5:13 PM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons Panera Bread Co PNRA says it wants customers to refrain from coming into its bakery-cafés with guns even if they legally can, becoming the latest national retailer or restaurant to say “No guns, please” but stopping short of banning firearms outright. This follows similar efforts in the last year by Starbucks SBUX , Target TGT , Chipotle Mexican Grill CMG , Sonic and Jack in the Box, all taking a middle-of-the-road approach to avoid offending anyone on either side of the contentious U.S. gun debate. They are making the request without publicizing it by posting signs inside stores or enforcing it as a rule, as they would to ban customers from bringing in food from outside establishments or require them to wear shoes and shirts. It also comes as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which favors stronger gun laws, is trying to get supermarket chain Kroger, KR the third largest U.S. retailer, on its side. “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,” a company spokeswoman said in an e-mail statement to Fortune. But the spokeswoman declined to say why Panera didn’t simply ban them. Target and Starbucks also referred to earlier press statements that didn’t say why those companies limited themselves to a request of their customers, rather than a rule of conduct in stores. Still, it seemed good enough for Moms Demand Action. “We want companies to take a stand on guns,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Business do not want to get involved.” So ‘no guns, please’ requests, even if they’re not enforceable, do contribute to a “cultural shift” Watts said. As for retailers and restaurants, many struggling with uneven sales numbers, it’s easy to see why they don’t want to be seen as antagonistic to any part of their clientele. Last week, Kroger noted how “passionate” customers on both side of the gun divide are in explaining why it wasn’t asking gun owners to leave their guns outside when shopping. A Terre Haute, an Indiana gun dealer, last month began a campaign “No Guns=No Money” that is finding traction among those wanting to boycott businesses that ban weapons from their premises, showing how perilous this debate could be for stores and restaurants.