I have heard many times of children putting the baby turtles the in their mouths, aside from poor parenting we are still stuck with a law that is even more poorly enforced as can be evidenced by the number of swap meet goers that even today purchase these turtles. I cannot tell you the number of people that I have encountered both on and offline that have purchased or were given a baby Red Eared Slider Trachemys scripta elegans as a pet. Logically speaking, I am sure this law did protect a lot of people from Salmonella poisoning and is a lot better than the actions taken by the European Union which in 1997 banned the subspecies all together[i]. I also think that a lot of turtles were saved as well though through this legislation as their care requirements are typically not given as part of the sale. I know this from personal experiences of customers and people who have been gifted the turtles contacting me and many others as to their care requirements after the turtle becomes ill.
Most people understanding at least that these were Freshwater turtles decided in their infinite wisdom to do the next best thing when the turtle became too big or even had gotten sick. Not wanting to spend more than they had already, which was no doubt a few dollars. They saw it as a disposable pet much like the goldfish at county fairs and released them into the wild. This of course becomes an issue now of the government attempting to control an invasive species which potentially upsets critical balances in the small ecosystems of lakes, streams, ponds, etc. This doesn’t take into account the amount of turtles lost to poor husbandry.