Uber bans firearms in its cars, for drivers and passengers

New rules published on the Uber site now specifically prohibit driver and passengers from carrying guns. Previously, Uber users and contractors were obliged to follow the local laws of whichever state they were operating in. "We seek to ensure that everyone using the Uber digital platform -- both driver-partners and riders -- feels safe and comfortable using the service," says the company.

"During a ride arranged through the Uber platform, Uber and its affiliates therefore prohibit possessing firearms of any kind in a vehicle," read the guidelines on the Uber site. "Any rider or driver found to have violated this prohibition may lose access to the Uber platform." Uber hasn't made an official announcement about the new regulations but it's believed they were added on June 10.

That timing would mean the change in terms happened before Wednesday's mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, and an Uber spokesperson speaking to the Wall Street Journal has confirmed this is the case. Nevertheless, the change in Uber's rule has come at a time when the debate about gun control is once again dominating the headlines.

Besides the issue of gun control it also brings into question the relationship between Uber and its users. Uber's business model is built on treating its drivers as contractors rather than employees, and it doesn't own any of the cars that power its service -- how much jurisdiction it should therefore have over what is and isn't allowed in those cars is a matter of debate.

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That tricky relationship between Uber and its drivers has recently been put under strain by a ruling in California, which said drivers should be treated as employees not contractors -- and that would mean higher costs and more red tape for Uber. Uber rival Lyft also uses drivers on a freelance basis, and also bans firearms from the vehicles it utilizes for its service.