Updated: When good intentions fail

Well… it happened again.

David Perdue, a caucasian, was mistaken for Dorner (who is black) by Torrance, CA police, who slammed into his vehicle and opened fire.  Fortunately(?) they seem to be lousy shots, as Perdue was unhurt.

“I don’t want to use the word buffoonery but it really is unbridled police lawlessness,” said Robert Sheahen, Perdue’s attorney. “These people need training and they need restraint.”


The past week or so has seen several stories emerge that, while not related in any usual sense, are necessary to consider in conjunction for the overarching questions they raise.

First, there was the rescue of the kidnapped six-year old in Alabama, through the unconventional devices  of the FBI.

From this, we were given to understand that the same technology that aided in the location and capture or liquidation of America’s foreign enemies was now entering the toolbox of domestic law enforcement.  Good news for the child who was safely freed, but somewhat chilling to some of us who recall J. Edgar Hoover’s unhinged vendettas against those he saw as his enemies.

Then came revelations about the Administration’s drone policies, and it crossed my mind that a spectacular rescue like the FBI had just completed, demonstrating the real benefits of related technologies of war, might just be the spoonful of sugar to make news of further compromises to our presumed liberties go down a little better.

Both stories suggest that we may indeed be facing a “brave new world” in which no one will be out of reach or unobserved.

Then yesterday, as a tense manhunt gripped LA, we had an object lesson in human failure that only served to deepen my concerns.

The L.A.P.D., understandably on edge as crazed ex-cop and trained sniper, Christopher Jordon Dorner, eluded capture after issuing a threatening manifesto against the entire department and murdering three people, became a little trigger happy and shot up a van with two innocent women inside!

As the vehicle approached the house, officers opened fire, unloading a barrage of bullets into the back of the truck. When the shooting stopped, they quickly realized their mistake. The truck was not a Nissan Titan, but a Toyota Tacoma. The color wasn’t gray, but aqua blue. And it wasn’t Dorner inside the truck, but a woman and her mother delivering copies of the Los Angeles Times.

Apart from a real concern with the threat these new stealth capabilities pose to national values of justice, privacy and  personal freedoms, I think there is good reason to distrust the human factor of simple operator error.

“Boom goes London, boom Paris…”

Boom goes the homeless guy who lives up a tree.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

25 thoughts on “Updated: When good intentions fail

  1. “We must be able to arrest people before they commit crimes. By registering guns and knowing who has them we can do that. .If they have guns they are pretty likely to commit a crime.” Vermont State Senator Mary Ann Carlson ”

    At first I thought it would be a quote from Phillip K. Dick’s Minority Report!

    To think that someone, anyone, said, “We must be able to arrest people before they commit crimes.”  What?  That in and of itself is so outrageous so as to disqualify that person from any position of authority, even dog catcher!

    After saying people should be arrested for not having committed any crime, the last sentence, “If they have guns they are pretty likely to commit a crime”, seems right in line with the first thought, both being completely unfounded in fact and law.

  2. Since this has devolved into a discussion of Mary Ann Carlson.

    When Mary Ann Carlson was in the Senate I worked very closely with her on housing legislation. She was a very liberal Democrat and very committed to tenants’ rights on the bills that I was working on with her. The early 1990’s were a time when housing legislation, particularly trailer park legislation, was a pretty hot issue there and Mary Ann could always be counted on to be on the right side.

    I recall one debate in particular in which she was the floor manager of a bill that had considerable opposition from the Republicans, but she skillfully and successfully managed the debate and got the bill passed. I later heard one of the other housing advocates say it was the best debate he’d ever seen on the floor.

    Thanks to farjas for researching this issue. I never believed the quote but didn’t pursue it. I don’t remember the bill we’ve been discussing but I’m sure I would have been in favor of it. I think it’s important to keep in mind that there is a difference between bad policy and bad politics. It’s entirely possible that her advocacy of this bill cost her her Senate seat, the same way that support of civil unions when they were very controversial cost some very good legislators, possibly more Republicans than Democrats, their seats, but I wouldn’t let that mislead me into thinking they were in the wrong.

  3. I was a short kid (spiked to 6′ my senior year of HS), and all the other kids would just quote that opening part about no reason to live.  Cherrypicking, always my nemesis.

  4. …is that she isn’t a current state senator and hasn’t been for about 2 decades.  The quotation appears to come from at least 2009, perhaps earlier, but I haven’t found any actual citation.

    If real, it’s an outrageous comment on many levels.  It just seems so…pat.  Would like somebody to show where she said/wrote it…

  5. Mary Ann Carlson was resoundingly defeated in 1994 while seeking her fourth term as a Vermont’s State Senator in large part due to her position on gun control. In former State Senator Calson’s own words:

    Mary Ann Carlson, a former Democratic senator from Bennington County, said she experienced the backlash of Vermont’s strong gun culture after introducing legislation in 1994 that would have restricted semi-automatic weapons and required gun registration in Vermont.

    Carlson was defeated in the ensuing election and said her bill played a role in that defeat.

    “I think probably the NRA came after me,” she said. “There was a bumper sticker out that said, ‘guns and ammo yes, Carlson no.'”


    In 1994, Mary Ann Carlson received 3,358 less votes than in 1992 (5,348 vs. 8,706). That’s 38.6% less votes than she received from her constituents just two years earlier when she was easily re-elected to her third term.


    This is why I keep asserting that it’s not only unmerited and bad policy to create gun laws that don’t exist in Vermont at the state level currently, but that doing so is also bad politics. Clearly, Bennington County in 1994 is not Chittenden County in 2013, but we’re still in Vermont and I believe that those politicians who continue to push for this legislation despite opposition will pay a political price.


    Statement of purpose: This bill would reduce or eliminate the presence of guns in schools by expanding the prohibition on possession of handguns to any school property or within any school building, by increasing the penalty for sale or transfer of a handgun to a minor, by requiring additional records of the sale and resale of handguns to enable law enforcement officers to trace the sale or transfer of such weapons to minors, and to authorize and require school boards to adopt a protocol for the search and confiscation of any handgun upon a reasonable suspicion that a student is in possession of such a weapon. The bill would also ban the possession of all semiautomatic assault weapons in the state, ban the possession and use of certain excessively dangerous ammunition, and make it a crime for a person to carry a concealed weapon.


    Former State Senator Mary Ann Carlson couldn’t get this past the Senate Education Committe, it never became law and she wasn’t re-elected, which she admits was, at least in part, due to her attempts. But hey, she started the conversation and that’s precisely what’s supposed to happen.

  7. but I find it difficult to believe this is the complete statement as quoted:  

    “We must be able to arrest people before they commit crimes. By registering guns and knowing who has them we can do that. .If they have guns they are pretty likely to commit a crime.” Vermont State Senator Mary Ann Carlson

    There must have been something between the two sentences that sheds some light on what she was thinking.  

    I don’t know a single person who would agree with that statement and can’t imagine how someone with such extreme views could find thousands of voters in Vermont to elect them to office.

  8. As you said, it depends on the climate and epoch.  And yes, they might get voted out by their constituents, but that really shouldn’t stop somebody from doing what they think is right, as with civil unions so long ago.  Some of those folks voting for CUs lost, and some of them came back, too.

  9. Mary Ann Carlson, who ostensibly was voted out by her constituents for “doing what she thought was right” regarding gun control in 1994, was subsequently appointed to the “Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection” which was created by the speaker of the house, Gaye Symington, and the senate president pro tempore, Peter Shumlin during the 2007-2008 Legislative Session.


    Maybe those legislators who are pushing legislation similar to former-senator Carlson’s will be lucky enough to be asked to serve on a state commission in 2026 – 2027.

  10. and find it repeated over and over again…but only by anti-regulatory websites.

    Nowhere do I find the complete text of whatever else was said, as it is obviously taken out of context.  I haven’t found an actual date or record of an event at which the statement was made.


    I am very suspicious that this may never even have been said and is just another NRA fabrication intended to bait the bulls.

    Somebody, please show me a link that legitimizes the quote!  Or tell me how I can reach Ms. Carlson to ask her if she actually said it.  I found a Mary Ann Carlson on the Vermont Folklore website.  Is this her?

    I’m serious; I really want to know.

  11. I phoned the West Mountain Inn to speak with Mrs. Carlson about the quote that’s been attributed to her on a number of pro-gun websites. As she was unavailable, the Inn’s kind receptionist asked if I’d like to speak with Mrs. Carlson’s daughter, Amie. Amie and I had a very congenial 5-minute conversation. Amie is very aware of her mother’s political history in Vermont. She recalls that her mother was, in fact, defeated in her fourth state senate campaign in 1994 because of her support of senate bill 349. She confirms that multiple groups (including the NRA) targeted her seat because of her stance on gun control. She, too, recalled the bumper stickers that her mother refers to in the quote above that read, ‘guns and ammo yes, Carlson no’.

    However, when I read her the quote that is attributed to her in Kestrel’s sig line she chuckled and said that she’d never heard that quote attributed to her mother before. She went on to say that the quote certainly doesn’t sound like anything her mother would have, or has ever said, especially the part that reads, “we must be able to arrest people before they commit crimes”. She was firm in her belief that her mom would never have said such a thing. She added that her mother is a very reasonable person and that much of what happened during that time happened in a very heated political climate. I offered to send her the quote that’s attributed to her mother via email and she welcomed the opportunity to read it, saying she’d like to search it out on the web and that she may respond to it. She also added that her mother has gone on to serve on a number of state-wide, non-elective boards and has enjoyed living a life that includes being of service to their community. My additional research suggests that Mrs. Carlson and her family have contributed greatly to their community. It’s a bit unsettling to me that the attribution of this quote which can’t be verified anywhere is what some will perpetuate as her legacy. From what I’ve read and learned, this woman doesn’t deserve that. I thanked Amie for her willingness to talk and her candor. If Amie follows up my email to her with any response, I’ll keep you posted.

  12. And thanks for that.

    It’s a good lesson for us all in how misquotes can become viral.  

    I will very much look forward to reading any updates that you get from Amie.

  13. Hi Jason,

    I was amazed when I goggled this. I can’t believe how many people are willing to post a totally un-attributed quote! I did find one guy who actually asked my mom about the quote in 1998 and this is what she wrote back:

    “Dear Ray, I definitely did not say what was quoted.  As an advocate for civil liberties I am not out to arrest innocent folks! Several years ago I sponsored a bill in the Vermont legislature to ban certain assault rifles.  Previous to that almost 10 years ago I sponsored a bill advocating a seven day waiting period before someone could purchase a hand gun. As a general statement, I am a person opposed to using violence to solve problems.  Thank you for letting me know what libelous words were used in my name.

    In peace, Mary Ann”

    Unless presented with some incontrovertible proof that she did, in fact, make the statement, I’m going to conclude that this statement is not something that former State Senator Mary Ann Carlson said.

  14. …I think you’ve made your point.  I mean, maybe see really did say something ‘off the record’ that might have gotten into some kind of print form…whatever.  I, at least, can believe that certain liberal anti-gun folks think that way.  What’s new with the Rally on Feb.23?  

  15. I also can’t believe you could be so easily fooled by what was obviously a manufactured dog-whistle.

    It sounded way out of whack to me from the get-go.  I honestly don’t know anyone who has anything even approaching that point of view.  Not Democrats, not Progressives…no one on the left would advocate such an Orwellian position!  

    I think that somebody who was looking to gin-up anger at folks who support regulation, created that fiction and placed it as coming from the mouth of a Vermont political figure who supported gun control.  Their thinking was probably that Vermont is a remote enough state that no one would ever be the wiser.  

    It sounds like classic NRA fright-fiction to me.  How better to get everyone to close their minds to any discussion of new regulation than to suggest that there was a “liberal” politician out there who thinks all gun owners should be rounded up and put in jail?  

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