NEW YORK (AP) — Panera has asked its customers to not bring guns into its bakery-cafes, unless they are an authorized law enforcement officer.

Some gun-rights advocates have used restaurants and other retail sites to raise awareness of the legality of carrying guns in public.

A number of retailers, however, have begun requesting publicly that their customers not bring guns inside, including Target Corp., Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Starbucks Corp. and Jack in the Box Inc.

Panera, based in St. Louis, said that it strives to create a place where customers and employees feel comfortable and welcome. "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," it said in a news release issued Monday.

Panera has more than 1,800 bakery-cafes in 45 states and Canada under the Panera Bread, Saint Louis Bread Co. and Paradise Bakery & Cafe names.