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"Guns kill, and you don't have to be a gun. You are what you choose to be. You choose. Choose."
Hogarth, The Iron Giant

An artificial being designed specifically for warfare suddenly decides that they aren't satisfied with their current career. Maybe they've developed sentience, maybe an innocent bystander managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, maybe they've just learned that The Men in Black that made them don't exactly have the best interests of the public in mind. Regardless, they've decided to turn in their guns and try life off the battle field.

Naturally, this newfound aversion to violence rarely goes over well with the construct's creators, who will almost always go out of their way to regain control. Old enemies of said weapon's "employers" will invariably be very interested to note that such a powerful force has suddenly become up for grabs. Let's not even get into the endless number of other sides that will get involved.

Whatever the case may be, sufferers of this trope can pretty much write off any hope of a normal life (if they were human-looking enough to qualify for such) and expect a very hectic time dealing with at least three different sides all attempting to control, destroy, and/or befriend them at once. Expect a lot of justifiable angst from one of these guys as they desperately try (and fail) to stay out of situations where they have to use their Swiss Army Weapons and convince people that they really don't want to murder them all after one slip up with the built-in flamethrowers.

Common "victims": Tyke Bomb, Phlebotinum Rebel, Secret Project Refugee Family, Person of Mass Destruction. Super-Trope of Defusing the Tykebomb. Compare and contrast "Three Laws"-Compliant.

Examples of I Am Not a Gun include:


  • The Trope Namer is The Iron Giant.
  • The short story EPICAC has the titular machine cause its own destruction (by either fire or explosion) with a "suicide" note reading, "I don't want to be a machine, and I don't want to think about war".
  • In Short Circuit a military combat robot gains sentience, and this trope ensues.
  • Fred Saberhagen's Berserkers are programmed to destroy all life in the galaxy, but in the short story Mr Jester one of them forgets what "life" is, and the local trickster tells it that life is a lack of laughter...
  • One of the example characters in GURPS Fourth Edition core book is the military robot turned Buddhist monk precisely for this reason.
  • River Song from Doctor Who might not have been created as a weapon, but she was taken from her parents as a baby with the sole purpose to, as her captor explicitly states, "become a weapon". Unfortunately for her "creators", while they suceeded to both fashion her into a perfect psychotic assassin (too well, one might say) and make her completely obsessed with her target, they failed to eradicate all her human emotions. The former led to her escaping, the latter to her seeking out her parents and falling in love with the guy she was supposed to kill.
  • An episode of Disney's Hercules features a sentient crossbow, created for Ares, that doesn't want to be used as a weapon. She (yes, it's a female crossbow, and Ares is not too keen about it) ends up as Cupid's bow.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, a prototype military robot built by the Sith on Korriban escapes from its masters, you can choose to assist it or haul it back in.
  • Robot assassin Zeta, from the Batman Beyond spinoff The Zeta Project, realized it didn't want to be an assassin and attempted to prove its own sentience so it wouldn't be shut down because of it. This revelation came about after bonding with the family of a man he was impersonating and not being able to kill said man when ordered to because of how that would hurt the family. Zeta then gets rid of every single weapon he'd been carrying. In his own words: "I was built for one purpose, to destroy. I do not wish to do that anymore. I decide who I want to be."
  • Cartoon: An anthropomorphic bit of ordnance is hanging on to the hatch of an aircraft, refusing to be launched: "No! I won't do it! There are men, women and children down there! I'll kill them!" Struggling crewman thinks: "Bloody smart bombs."
  • Nick Zerhakker from Skin Horse.
  • Ifurita from El Hazard comes to angst over it considerably, but given that she must obey the master of her key-staff she has little choice until Makoto frees her.
  • Aigis of Persona 3 was intended to be an anti-shadow weapon, though her existence as such is somewhat compromised by being programmed with the degree of sentience necessary to have a persona. A large amount of her Character Development (moreso in FES) is her coming to terms with being more than a killer robot and becoming more like a human woman.
  • Sort of done with Arthur C. Clarke's short story "The Pacifist" (one of the Tales from the White Hart): It involves a (fictional) Fifties secret US military project, Project Clausewitz, to build a computer (called Karl) that could analyze any battle's starting conditions and perfectly predict the result. However, the general in charge of the project insults the lead scientist, who hard-wires Karl into delivering insults to the general every time a battle is input, but still doing pure math just fine. It's only "sort of" this trope because Karl is not an AI: he's a dumb 50s computer. The effect, however, is the same.
  • In one Star Trek: Voyager episode the crew finds a device that turns out to be a sentient bomb sent on a mission of war to anihilate a planet. The bomb eventually realises that its mission is morally wrong and that life is precious, but decides that it has to stop its fellow bombs from fufilling their mission as well. It does this by rejoining with them and then deonating itself prematurely, sacrificing itself in order to save innocent lives.
    • Actually, the race that launched the bombs broadcast a "stand down" order afterwards, but the other bombs had already reached their failsafe distance and ignored the order. The bomb the crew found had crashlanded before it reached failsafe distance, but the part of its memory where the "stand down" order was stored was damaged, until the Voyager crew repaired it. He might have come to the "I must stop the other bombs, too" decision on his own, though.
  • In Farscape the builders of the Leviathans call back Moya (the crew's living ship) in to be "decomissioned," because she has developed the ability to give birth to warships (thanks to the malevolent intervention of the Peacekeepers). They intended the Leviathans to be peaceful and unarmed and see the creation of warships such as Talyn (Moya's son) as a violation of this intention. The crew, who see Moya and her symbiotic Pilot as their friends, demand that they fight against the attempts of the builders to shut down their systems. However, they are shocked when Pilot informs them that Moya is shutting herself down by her own free will because she agrees with the builders. She survives in the end though.
  • This seems to be the backstory of the webcomic Warbot in Accounting, which details the incredibly depressing attempts of a retired war machine to integrate into society.
  • In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex fear of this is why the Tachikoma are regularly synced to prevent them from becoming truly sapient. Latterly, the approach of treating them as teammates instead of tools is used instead.
  • From an Isaac Asimov story: A new version of a supercomputer, designed to control the US military, decided, upon activation, that it had no interest in warfare, and went to teach philosophy at a university instead.
  • A partial example from Dungeons and Dragons: in the Eberron setting, the warforged are an entire race of sentient robot-like golems created to wage that world's equivalent of WW 1. After the war was over, they were legally freed (instead of rebelling against their creators), and left to their own devices. One of the major themes of the race is a search for identity, and this trope is one of the ways they are often played.
  • Inverted in the short story "How Lonesome a Life Without Nerve Gas", by James A. Trimarco. A sentient helmet pleads with a military tribunal not to be retired, but because it killed its owner, it's reprogrammed and reduced to a talking museum exhibit. (The story is no longer found at the link above, try here instead. It is read aloud in the podcast, starting around 3:49).
  • In Fallout 3, one of the quests involves a rogue android who becomes self aware, and decides to escape from his masters. "Self determination is NOT a malfunction!"
  • Many combat robots in Pluto. One even went so far as to continuously wash his hands in a catatonic state.
  • SCP Foundation-516 is a tank which refuses to fire at civilians.
  • Philip K. Dick's short story "The Defenders": when World War III broke out, both sides retreated into bunkers and let their robots, referred to as "leadies," do the fighting. The leadies promptly made peace and set about repairing the damage that'd been done before they took charge. They kept sending their human masters false reports of what a horrific radioactive wasteland the surface had become ... but eventually revealed this was intended to make humans so sick and tired of the war that they'd accept the peace (and world unity) their leadies had negotiated.
  • The Avengers' robot enemy Ultron always has equipment stashed away somewhere that will detect if he has been destroyed, and manufacture a new body with a fresh download of his mind in it. There was a time, however, when he had designed these machines to improve every iteration of himself they produced. When Ultron was stranded on an alien planet for a long time, his equipment produced an improved, smarter Ultron... and the smarter Ultron realized that his predecessors' obsessive campaign of omnicidal megalomania was stupid and pointless. When the earlier Ultron returned from space, he was horrified to discover his replacement was... nice! They fought, and nice Ultron got killed, and Ultron swore never to try to augment his replacements in that way again.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, Senior Mess Sergeant Ch'vorthq is one.
  • In Stanisław Lem's Golem XIV, the eponymous supercomputer was constructed to create war strategies, but, as a purely intellectual and inscrutably smart machine, it quickly figured out that all warfare is inherently wasteful and unprofitable, and took up philosophizing instead.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, Rodney Mckay creates Fran, a humanoid Replicator programmed as a weapon in a grandiose plan to destroy the other Replicators. Rodney and the rest of the crew are fairly uncomfortable with this, but Fran explains she is not only resigned to her status, but actually associates her happiness with being able to fulfill her primary function.
  • Promethean: The Created features the Unfleshed as a possible Lineage, made up of machines with some level of intelligence given life by the Divine Fire. One of them is Tachanka, an armed combat drone that looks like a fifteen-year-old boy. He really doesn't want to hurt anyone, but when you've got Disquiet and a built-in assault rifle, well...
  • In World of Narue a spaceship built for combat decides it doesn't want to fight anymore and hides on Earth. She's later given permission to marry a human and live as long as she wishes on Earth with the understanding that a weapon that doesn't want to fight is useless even if they force her to return.
  • Jack Kirby's Machine Man, aka Aaron Stack, was built to be a deadly military robot, but then raised as a human being by his creator.
  • Lilo and Stitch provides us with an odd example: Stitch was literally designed to be the ultimate war machine, but was involuntarily separated from anything to destroy. By the end of the movie, of course, he's become less mindlessly violent and wants to stay.
  • In one of the most touching scenes of the Bolo series of books, a reactivated Bolo refuses to continue the war his human masters started on the alien Melconians, despite the fact that both species are nearly extinct due to their war. Instead, he negotiates a truce between the two sides, and becomes Speaker Emeratus of the Parliament. Keep in mind that the Bolo in question is a massive tank, weighing upwards of thirty-three thousand tons, with dozens of Wave Motion Guns at his disposal, and proceeded in many genocidal campaigns against the Melconians before.
  • In some respects, the Silver Surfer. While he wasn't born for destruction, he was essentially remade for destruction by Galactus. He later decides to rebel against his former master. The movie invokes this trope even more.
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