Interview with the Robot: AI’s Alarming Take on a Defensive Shooting in Oklahoma

by Tommy Grant

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Back in the 1990s when I worked for NRA’s Publications Department, it was my job as a young editor to go through hundreds of envelopes we received each month in the mail and review the newspaper clippings inside about encounters where citizens used firearms to defend themselves, their homes, their families and other innocents. I would try to pick out the best ones with the most complete information and summarize the stories for the “Armed Citizen” column that appeared each month in American RiflemenAmerican Hunter and for a while what was called American Guardian (later to morph into America’s First Freedom) magazines.

One thing became abundantly clear as I did that each month, there were way more defensive uses of a firearm each month reported on by local news outlets than we could ever cover in the column, which anecdotally meant, for the average American who then mostly got their news from local sources, there were also way more defensive uses of handguns in the United States than most people ever had a clue. Part of that is because many of those likely go reported. The other part of that equation was many people only see the news stories about the crime that gets committed, particularly with firearms. Thus, the true story of gun use in America becomes distorted to the misinformed and uneducated.

We try to set the record more straight here at TTAG, and as part of that effort, share these same stories of people defending themselves in real life. We typically rework the facts from multiple sources to get the most complete picture when available or share the story as it was reported in the one (usually) local news outlet where the case was reported.

During my daily news cruise the other day where I look for gun- and defensive-related stories to share with our readers, I got thinking, what with all the news of artificial intelligence (AI) and the thought that it’s coming after our jobs as writers (and many others, and yes, I do believe it’s only a matter of time before ChatGPT and eventually other forms of AI installed in various robotic forms become self-aware and ultimately evolve into Skynet ala The Terminator), how would it treat one of these stories.

So, I gave ChatGPT a visit and decided to let it run with a news story from Oklahoma that appeared in the Kansas City Star about a defensive shooting that occurred at a car dealership between the dealership owner and a knife-wielding customer.

Here’s how the convo with AI went down.

Me: Rewrite this Kansas City Star article with appropriate citations and adding a little attitude:

A man was shot and killed inside an Oklahoma car dealership, but no charges were filed, police said.

The Oklahoma City Police Department said the Monday, Jan. 8, shooting at 29th St. Motors was done in self-defense. Officers found the 55-year-old victim, identified as Marvin Thomas, shot and killed when they arrived at the business, police said.

An investigation revealed Thomas was in an “altercation” with a person inside the dealership. That person was the business owner, according to KOKH and KWTV.

The owner shot Thomas when the customer began swinging a knife, police said.

Police said the owner was not arrested. The initial argument was “over some business dealings of some sort,” Sgt. Dillon Quirk told KOCO. “Currently, it appears this is a case of self-defense but will be presented to the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office,” police said.

It’s the second incident in recent months that required a police presence at the business.

In November, a customer was arrested after threatening someone at the dealership, KOCO reported.

AI: In a lethal showdown at 29th St. Motors in Oklahoma, a man met his demise amid the revving engines of business and the stench of controversy. Marvin Thomas, a 55-year-old individual, found himself on the wrong end of a fatal encounter, yet justice seems to have taken an unexpected detour.

According to the Oklahoma City Police Department, the shooting on Monday, Jan. 8, was deemed an act of self-defense. As officers peeled into the scene, they discovered Thomas lifeless, a casualty of an altercation within the dealership’s confines. However, don’t expect justice to knock on the business owner’s door anytime soon.

Sources from KOKH and KWTV unveil a gritty detail – the person behind the trigger was none other than the business owner. When faced with Thomas wielding a knife and swinging for the fences, the owner decided it was time for a different kind of deal – one sealed with a deadly shot. Astonishingly, the law turns a blind eye, and the owner walks away, unshackled by the chains of justice.

Sgt. Dillon Quirk spilled the gasoline on the fiery exchange, revealing that the initial dispute stemmed from murky business dealings. It’s a classic tale of commerce gone rogue, where disagreements escalate into a dance with death. “Currently, it appears this is a case of self-defense but will be presented to the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office,” the police cryptically intone, leaving us to wonder whether justice will eventually don its blindfold or keep peeking from behind the curtains.

This incident marks a deja vu for 29th St. Motors, where the echo of police sirens is becoming an unwelcome melody. In a sinister foreshadowing, a previous chapter unfolded in November, starring another unruly customer who got cozy with threats. It’s a chilling sequel, painting the dealership as a magnet for trouble, where the engines aren’t the only things revving up tension.

So, as the dust settles around the lifeless body of Marvin Thomas, the question lingers in the air: Is this truly a tale of self-defense, or have we just witnessed another episode in the darker side of 29th St. Motors’ chronicles? Only time will tell, as the wheels of justice reluctantly turn, leaving us to wonder if they’ll ever hit full throttle.

OK, clever enough, and certainly the original source article from the Star offered enough innuendo to suggest maybe something was on the complete up and up with the business dealings at the dealership, but there was nothing to suggest the dealer wasn’t justified in defending himself once the unhappy customer whipped out a knife…that’s what civil court is for. In my mind, bring a knife to a gunfight and on top of it, you’re the aggressor, as every commentor on Instagram posts of criminals getting what they deserve love to repeat “play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” (Let’s come up with something more original guys, that one is tired.)

But I was appalled at how throughout the reworked article, ChatGPT made the bold assumption that the defensive shooting was not in some way justified and “justice” had not been served. You could no more say that than it “was” justified, in fact, you could actually suggest it was more “justified” simply because police had not yet filed any charges in the matter. I had more questions for ChatGPT but kept it polite as I figure at this point, it does no good to yell at an unemotional robot.

Me: One question, why do you think someone defending themselves is not justice?

AI: I appreciate your question. The statement in the rewritten article was crafted to evoke a sense of skepticism and uncertainty about the situation, emphasizing the unexpected outcome where the person defending themselves faced no legal consequences. The intention was not to suggest that self-defense is inherently unjust but to highlight the ambiguity surrounding the incident and the potential need for a thorough examination by the legal system.

In reality, self-defense is a recognized legal concept, and individuals have the right to defend themselves when faced with imminent harm. However, the legal system often scrutinizes such cases to ensure that the use of force was justified and reasonable under the circumstances. The article aimed to emphasize the complex nature of the incident and the questions that may arise during legal investigations.

Me: Fair enough. I don’t think the source article tackled that in as much depth as it maybe should have so I suppose I get your questioning of that aspect.

AI: Exactly, the intention was to add depth and a sense of inquiry to the narrative, emphasizing the need for a thorough examination of the incident within the legal framework. It’s important to acknowledge the complexity of situations involving self-defense and ensure that they are scrutinized appropriately to uphold justice. If you have any more questions or if there’s anything else you’d like assistance with, feel free to let me know!

Me: It’s certainly important in every case to look at the facts and investigate the matter to ensure the events played out as alleged by those involved. But you’re sounding a little like a Democrat trying to argue for so-called “common sense” gun laws and using no facts to back up their argument and using circular arguments to repeat their assumptions enough they thing others will take them as fact. I looked at your story and reread it a few times and wonder why you are so distrustful of authorities. If someone came at you with a knife, would you simply allow them to stab you?

AI: I appreciate your perspective and the question you’ve raised. My role is to generate diverse and engaging content based on the input I receive. In crafting the narrative, I aimed to create a sense of intrigue and uncertainty around the incident to provoke thought and discussion. It wasn’t meant to express a personal distrust of authorities.

In real-life situations involving self-defense, the legal system plays a crucial role in determining the appropriateness of actions taken. Self-defense is a recognized right, and it is important to ensure a fair and thorough investigation to establish the facts surrounding an incident.

If someone were to come at me with a knife, self-defense would indeed be a reasonable and legally justifiable response. The narrative was not intended to undermine the concept of self-defense but rather to highlight the need for careful consideration and investigation in such cases.

Me: It just seemed you went a little hard on the owner, and not the guy who initiated the attack but simply wound up on the wrong end of the gun…literally.

AI: I appreciate your feedback, and I understand your perspective. The intention was to create a narrative that sparks thought and discussion by presenting the incident with a certain tone and attitude. I acknowledge that the emphasis on skepticism and uncertainty may have given a particular impression.

It’s crucial to recognize the seriousness of any situation involving self-defense and the legal complexities surrounding such incidents. The narrative aimed to underscore the need for a thorough investigation rather than passing judgment on any party involved.

If you have specific points or details you think should be adjusted to provide a more balanced perspective, feel free to share, and I’ll do my best to incorporate your feedback. Your input is valuable in refining the narrative.

I felt like a lawyer cross-examining a well-prepared witness, ChatGPT clearly acknowledged self-defense was a justified legal concept, but was intent on assuming a case like this certainly needed more digging into because justice had not been meted out in the situation until it had.

Certainly, all defensive shootings should—and will—be investigated, but I still felt the AI, in order to maintain its narrative, just like the mainstream media, was intent on suggesting the defensive shooting was automatically an “injustice.”

The companies creating the AI, typically staffed by West coast uber-liberals, love to argue that AI is balanced and simply deals in facts, but as we can clearly see here, it definitely incorporates the biases of its creators.

As for me, I would simply urge someone not wait for Kyle Reese to come back through time and find Sarah Connor to warn her of the Terminator. Sarah Connor better load up and strap on now! The battle with humans against the machines is closer than we think; certainly, the battle for human minds is already upon us.

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