In a previous post about Lost and Found items in rental cars, we made a note that many unrecovered items don't really "disappear" or get stolen. Frequently, items simply aren't noticed by the team responsible for cleaning and turning around a vehicle, from the old contracts we've all found above sun visors, loose change in the center console, and even the technology devices and cables we might only find between/under seats because we have dropped our own technology device between/under seats. There's the infamous example where a car assigned to me by Enterprise had used Tyvek safety suits and plastic baggies in my personal version of Breaking Bad; it's inexplicable to miss white items against a black interior and I refused that car. Recently, Budget completely missed a loaded firearm in a rental until it was discovered by a professional wrestler four days later.
WWE professional wrestler Shelton Benjamin found a Ruger LCP compact in his Budget rental car on the fourth day of his rental. He was understandably upset, going to Twitter to explain that Budget had put his "reputation, freedom, and quite possibly his life in danger" and Budget's Twitter team sent an entirely tone-deaf response -- this may be beyond their paygrade of fixing minor rental issues. And based upon Budget's response and various news reports, it's not clear that others quote "get" Mr. Benjamin's quite valid point.
For a concealed carry permit holder, it's perfectly legal to have a loaded handgun in most U.S. states. It's even legal to have a handgun in a rental car if certain logistical conditions are met; with existing reciprocity laws, it's not uncommon for a permit holder to have rights to carry concealed in 39 states. But those logistics come into play -- for instance, a permit holder can't walk through an airport terminal with a loaded handgun before picking up the rental car (unless it is Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson's pre-security area).
Comparatively few states allow an individual without a concealed carry permit to have a loaded sidearm in a vehicle. That's where Mr. Benjamin found himself; a loaded firearm in a rental car and blame for Budget as well as the gun's original possessor.
- Budget should have identified the firearm during the cleaning of the car.
- If the gun's original possessor was a carry permit holder, the firearm should have been properly secured.
- If the gun's original possessor had criminal intent, it's beneficial to have the firearm off the streets.
If Mr. Benjamin were pulled over in a traffic stop and police saw the undisclosed (because it was unknown) firearm when the glove compartment was opened, his reputation, freedom and quite possibly his life would have indeed been in danger. If he had decided to take his rental on an extended or one-way rental and were pulled over in a state like Illinois (a little more than 4 hours away), the potential jail terms would be much more dire. If another occupant of the vehicle -- child or adult -- were to find and mishandle the firearm, an accidental discharge could happen. And if Mr. Benjamin had not discovered the firearm, there may well have been future stories of "a firearm was found in a rental car recently returned by WWE Star Shelton Benjamin". Yet as of the time of this writing, Budget had simply decided to turn over the case to law enforcement and said "sorry" (which wasn't enough).
It's getting more and more absurd.
So now, we have some guidance for Mr. Benjamin. Budget's understandably on your bad list but remember that Avis, Budget, Maggiore, Payless, and ZipCar are the same corporation -- voting with your wallet (or employer's wallet) means Superkicking them all to the curb. And the rest of us now have another step in our rental car check-out processes -- rather than pick our car, check for damage and go, there's more than a passing thought we might also need to check under the seats and in various compartments for potential contraband that may have been missed by the cleaning/turnaround crew.