Uber has fired a Texas driver for discharging a gun in his car during an altercation with a passenger on July 20, almost exactly a month after the car-hailing service banned its drivers and passengers from carrying firearms.
Austin-area driver Deven Garza told a local television station that he pulled a handgun when one of his passengers — Garza alleges that the man was intoxicated — grabbed the driver’s shirt and refused to let go. Garza pulled over and the two men struggled over the gun before it discharged, striking the car’s gearshift and steering wheel. As soon as the gun went off and his passengers fled, Garza said he contacted both Uber and the local police. Shortly after the incident, on July 28, Uber terminated him.
Uber banned guns from its vehicles in June after a well-publicized incident involving a Chicago driver the month before. Garza, who is a concealed handgun license instructor, claims he had been driving for the service for two months and was never informed about Uber’s gun-free policy.
Despite the company’s mandate, some Uber drivers continue to arm themselves while picking up fares. Garza is at least the second driver since the policy went into effect who has parted ways with the company after a violation involving firearms. Last month, Steven Rayow, a 74-year-old former NYPD officer driving for Uber in Clearwater, Florida, shot his passenger in the foot. Rayow, who had a concealed-carry permit, claimed Marc Memel was choking him before the ride even began.
One Reddit user who claims to drive for Uber tells The Trace he carries a concealed weapon on the job in full knowledge of Uber’s policy. “I carry because I would much rather lose the ability to work with Uber than be robbed, physically assaulted, or need to defend myself and be unable to,” he wrote in a message.
The driver dismissed safety measures like the partitions between drivers and passengers found in New York yellow cabs, arguing that Uber’s business model “relies on the low cost of drivers providing their own vehicles with very little need for modification.” He added, “I think they don’t really have any responsibility to protect their drivers. Every person is responsible for their own safety.”
A spokesman for Uber confirmed that both Garza and Rayow had been dismissed from the service, and referred The Trace to the company’s code of conduct when asked how it educated drivers on its gun policy.
[Photo: Flickr user Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures]