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Culture

Is That a Gun in Your Airbnb Closet?

Checking into the lodging giant's firearms policy following Uber's gun ban

Uber announced a new policy earlier this month banning its drivers and passengers from possessing guns, two months after an Uber driver carrying a concealed weapon shot another man who had fired into a crowd in Chicago. The incident raised questions about the popular ridesharing company’s stance on guns. And then came Charleston. Hence, the firearms ban.

It also got The Trace wondering about the gun policies of another giant of the so-called “sharing economy,” Airbnb.

Airbnb is an online platform that connects people with spare housing accommodations to those looking for short-term rentals. It claims to offer more than 1.2 million listings worldwide. The company has faced concerns over its security standards after a few early guests trashed hosts’ homes, but now has a dedicated “Trust and Safety” team with more than 100 employees. What Airbnb does not have is any platform-wide rules or guidelines regarding guns. The way the company is set up, it doesn’t have to.

Airbnb’s terms and conditions say hosts are responsible for following local laws, and that the company “disclaims all liability.” In other words, if hosts don’t want firearms in their homes, it’s up to them to state that in their listing. If guests want to know whether guns are kept in the house where they’ll be staying, they have to ask. But Airbnb hosts do not have to disclose the presence of guns in their home before renting it out, since the premises are their private property. Airbnb asks that hosts ensure their homes are safe for children and recommend they notify guests of “potential hazards,” but does not elaborate on what those hazards might include. (Airbnb did not return repeated calls for comment.)

The bottom line is that same gun rules apply in an Airbnb rental as they would in a local hotel room or a rental apartment under state laws and city ordinances. In Texas, for instance, an out-of-state resident with the proper permits is allowed to carry a concealed weapon in most places, including into the home of the stranger whose home you have rented.

In New York, which has much stricter gun laws than Texas, gun owners need a New York permit to carry a concealed weapon. But if an in-state Airbnb guest has that permit, they are allowed to bring their concealed weapon along on their weekend getaway without informing the host, a New York law enforcement official tells The Trace.

Searching through Airbnb listings, we found a few hosts who do specify their policies toward guns on their listing. One couple from Bend, Oregon, advertises their home as being “firearm friendly,” but requested that guests notify them if they bring them on the property. A listing for a property in Nashville, Tennessee, on the other hand, expressly forbids guns on the property at any time, even if the guest has a concealed-carry permit.

As a private company, Airbnb can remove certain people from listing their property on the site if they are deemed discriminatory or in violation of the company’s policies. The company did just that in April, after an Airbnb host refused to rent her home to a gay couple.

But there’s little motivation for Airbnb to enact a no-guns policy like Uber’s.

“I guess [Airbnb] could require that people who want to post their homes on the site would have to ban guns,” a spokesperson from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence tells The Trace. “But [since they’re private properties], it seems unlikely to me they would do that.”

[Photo: Flickr user EFFIE YANG]