Fact Check

'If people have guns, they are pretty likely to commit a crime'

An infamous quote holds that a Vermont state legislator once said, 'If [people] have guns, they are pretty likely to commit a crime.'

Published Mar 20, 2015

Image Via Shutterstock
Vermont state senator Mary Ann Carlson once said that people who own guns "are pretty likely to commit a crime."

On 19 March 2015, a Reddit user posted a quote to a discussion thread about firearms. That thread linked to a series of anti-gun statements reportedly made by American politicians, and the quote attributed to Vermont state senator Mary Ann Carlson generated a good deal of outrage on social media following its recirculation via that platform:

"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

You can't make this sh*t up.

These are the people writing and enforcing the law, and they have no understanding or regard for the constitution they are supposed to uphold.

The collection of quotes linked on Reddit was published in mid-2014, but the comment credited to Carlson had begun circulating online far earlier. The earliest version we've found so far dates to 2002, but many variations of it have been posted in the intervening years, all without providing any additional information about source or context.

Although the quote first surfaced as early as 2002, Carlson had not served as a Vermont state senator for almost a decade prior to that. A 2013 article quoted Carlson on the matter of gun control and reported that she had lost a re-election bid nearly twenty years earlier (in 1994), in part due to her attempt to introduce gun control legislation in that state:

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.'"

Carlson and other sponsors were looking to keep firearms out of the hands of people who should not own them, she said. She still believes that "many incredible people who have guns use them responsibly" and those responsible gun owners could help create restrictions that would prevent gun violence.

"I wish that the ... people who use guns responsibly would speak out so people who use guns irresponsibly can't just go out and buy a gun and the next day use it," Carlson said.

Back in 2003, well before Reddit took note of the Carlson's putative controversial statement, a local political blog had debated its veracity. Carlson responded to that debate and confirmed that the quote attributed to her was a fabrication:

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.


Goswami, Neal P.   "Vermont Lawmakers Eye Changes to State Gun Laws in Wake of Newtown Shooting."     New Haven Register.   7 January 2013.

Prent, Sue.   "Updated: When Good Intentions Fail."     Green Mountain Daily.   9 February 2013.

Article Tags