Uber bans guns. We asked the rest of the sharing economy if they do too
Last week, Uber announced that drivers and passengers are no longer allowed to carry guns whenever they’re participating in a ride booked via its service. The decision followed two separate incidents in which Uber drivers opened fire, in one case to incapacitate another gunman.
Reaction to the ban has been mixed, with some 2nd Amendment advocates arguing, as is their wont, that Uber drivers with guns makes everyone safer. Ladd Everitt, director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, disagreed. He told me he was pleased with Uber’s new position on firearms.
“In terms of as a safety policy, we think it’s a great idea.” he said. “The fact that Uber does not have an intimate working relationship with these drivers makes it an even better idea. They’re not familiar with these individuals […] There is a lot of history there that Uber knows nothing about. Given that, I think the no gun policy makes a lot of sense here.”
Everett went further, contrasting Uber’s gun policy with that of lawmakers: “When you live in a country where government leaders have failed utterly to protect the public from gun violence, a corporation looking to promote its brand and promote its business, sometimes will have to step in and be the adult in the room.”
(I reached out to the National Rifle Association to see if they agreed but, after asking me to put my question in writing, they didn’t respond by press time.)
All this debate about Uber and guns made me curious: Do other players in the sharing economy dictate whether their contractors — who in most cases are not employees, remember — can carry lawfully held firearms?
The answer, I discovered, is “no.” Or in some cases “we have no idea.”
I contacted all of the poster children of the sharing world: Handy, Airbnb, SideCar, Urban Sitter, TaskRabbit, and Postmates. What I discovered is that many of these companies aren’t keen to discuss guns. Those who didn’t mind talking about the subject mostly either didn’t have a gun policy, or did have one but didn’t know what it was.
Only Lyft is as clear as Uber on its gun policy: They’re not allowed, by riders or passengers — a policy that has been in place from the start.
To keep our entire community comfortable, Lyft has a strict "No Weapons" policy. This means that if any driver or passenger possesses a weapon in a Lyft vehicle, regardless of whether possession is legal where they are, they will be removed from the platform.
We approach this issue from a community perspective — it’s hard to know what someone else is or isn't comfortable with. The mere presence of a weapon might make another community member distressed.
Lyft reserves sole judgement on what constitutes a "weapon”.
When I first contacted Uber and Lyft’s nearest rival, SideCar, a representative told me “We don’t currently have a gun policy. We’ve never had issues or reports of firearms in Sidecar driver’s vehicles. However, as our business grows we believe it’s a good time to review our Terms of Service and determine if it would be appropriate to update it to include information about guns.”
So, SideCar drivers can carry guns?
Um… not so fast. SideCar’s terms and conditions actually do bar drivers from using “weapons of any type, or [making] any threat or violence.” The company says it will “suspend accounts for riders or drivers” who violate its rules. So either the company’s rep was mistaken or their policy is that drivers can carry guns providing they never use them, or threaten to do so.
I asked the company for clarification and the (by now somewhat frustrated) rep told me they’re reviewing their terms:
“The key thing here is that there has never been an issue or incident with a Sidecar driver carrying a gun. Even so, we’re reviewing our Terms of Service to determine if they should be updated to include a gun policy. It wouldn’t be fair to guess that we wouldn’t investigate or enforce against carrying weapons because you found an inconsistency on our website. If a rider or driver were to report an incident of a weapon in a Sidecar’s driver’s vehicle it would be investigated and resolved as we do with all complaints. There has never been an issue or incident where a driver was carrying a gun so we haven’t had to do that.”
A rep for Airbnb seemed confused when I asked them about their policy about guns in their rental properties. Their renter terms and conditions offers all kinds of useful information about safety, including an offer from Airbnb to help pay for things like carbon monoxide detectors. But no mention of guns.
TaskRabbit, Urban Sitter and Postmates did’t reply to requests for clarification of their weapons policy. None includes mention of guns in their terms and conditions.
Of course, even services which do ban their providers from carrying guns have very little way to enforce the rule. By the time anyone realizes their UrbanSitter or Postmate is armed to the teeth, it’s probably too late. Many people who carry a firearm everywhere they go don’t often say that they’re packing. It’s called “concealed carry” for a reason and, as Everitt says, services like Uber have very little direct contact with their contractors.
Changing a firearm policy is a fine public relations move — especially after last week’s mass shooting in South Carolina — but like so many aspects of the sharing economy, it’s really no one’s job to enforce nor is it clear who’s to blame if something goes horribly wrong.