Parents of shooting victims use AI to recreate children's voices in bid to get gun laws tightened

By John Mercury February 16, 2024

Parents of shooting victims are using AI technology to recreate the voices of their children in a bid to get US politicians to strengthen firearms laws.

A website, where members of the public can hear six voices, states the victims “have a chance to speak again” after violence “stole their voices and ended their dreams”.

The Shotline was created by gun control campaigning groups March For Our Lives and Change The Ref and allows people to send the AI-generated voices of the victims to members of Congress.

The campaign was launched on Wednesday on the sixth anniversary of the Parkland school shooting where 17 people were killed in Florida, including Joaquin Oliver, whose voice is one of the six featured on the site. The 17-year-old boy’s parents founded Change The Ref in his memory.

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Deadly shooting in Kansas City

The issue of US gun violence was highlighted again later that same day with a deadly shooting at the end of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade.

Another of the voices on the website is that of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, who was among 19 pupils and two teachers killed in a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas in May 2022.

In the minute-long recording, his AI-generated voice reveals a love of video games, making friends laugh, and spending time on the trampoline with his family.

“I’m a fourth grader at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas,” Uziyah’s voice said. “Or at least I was, when a man with an AR-15 came into my school and killed 18 of my classmates, two teachers and me.”

“That was almost two years ago. Nothing has changed. Even more shootings have happened.

“That’s why my family recreated my voice using AI to call you today and demand change. You’ll be getting more calls from others like me, too. What is it going to take for you to help make sure violence like this stops happening?”

Uzi Garcia
Image:
Uziyah Garcia

Uziyah’s father, Brett Cross, told Sky News’s Yalda Hakim that “we’ve been his voice for the past 632 days, and yesterday, he was able to have his voice, share his message”.

Mr Cross spoke of his hopes for the project as it highlights children’s deaths: “All we want is for not another child to go through this. We don’t want another parent to have to pick out which cartoon character is going to be on their 10-year-old’s coffin.”

He said the campaign aims to “flood these lines” and make sure the politicians “hear our kids’ voices”.

He said they “are just ignoring us at this point. They’re not listening”.

“Are they going to listen to our kids? Are they going to listen to the voices of children that could have been here had they enacted just common sense gun laws?”

Crosses with the names of Tuesday's shooting victims are placed outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Thursday, May 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Image:
Crosses containing the names of the Uvalde shooting victims. Pic: AP

He warned: “In America, it’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen to you [being affected by a shooting].

“It’s a matter of when and we’re trying to prevent that, we’re trying to prevent that for these politicians’ kids, but they just do not see it.”

Read more:
Two weeks of shootings in America
Nine dead after shooting at US shopping mall

Mr Cross stated the NRA (National Rifle Association) gun lobby continues to “push out this propaganda and these agendas” that “good guys with a gun stop bad guys with a gun”.

“Except the only thing that is common in all of these shootings is a gun… they’re not focusing and facing the actual problems. They’re masking it, and they’re getting away with it.”

According to The Shotline website, more than 34,000 calls have been submitted to members of Congress so far.

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