Panera Bread on Monday became the latest U.S. company to ask customers to leave their firearms at home. The gun ban, which will not be enforced by Panera Bread employees, has thrust the restaurant chain into the ongoing debate over firearms laws. 

"The request is simply we recognize everyone's rights," Panera CEO Ron Shaich told CNBC in a phone interview. "But we also recognize that we are building communities in our cafes and are where people come to catch a breath."

Police officers are exempt under the new Panera Bread policy, according to Shaich. Other retail and fast-food chains, including Target, Chipotle, Chili’s and Starbucks, have made similar requests that customers leave their firearms at home.

Second Amendment proponents have criticized such policies, claiming that they contribute to more unsafe communities. In recent months, pro-gun rights groups have advocated for Second Amendment rights while carrying loaded weapons into Target and other retail stores across the nation.

Proponents of tougher gun laws have called on retailers and restaurants to ban guns at their locations, arguing firearms should not be so widely available. Groups such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense have launched petitions in support of such bans. 

Panera Bread boasts more than 1,800 locations across the U.S. and Canada.  

Panera customers reacted to the gun ban on social media Monday: