As constituents came before the New Hampshire House of Representatives on Tuesday to speak in favor of gun control legislation, a number of Republican lawmakers saw fit to sport pearl necklaces in an effort to mock those opposing gun violence, according to The Guardian.
Suggesting that those supporting a measure which “would make it easier to restrict access to guns for people who pose an immediate threat to themselves or others” were “clutching their pearls,” the all-male group of lawmakers garnered immediate criticism.
“It really is shameful to behave that way when your constituents are being brave enough to share their stories,” Shannon Watts, founder of the advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America told the Washington Post.
Democratic Representative Debra Altschiller, who sponsored the bill, said the Republicans only displayed their lack of empathy with the move:
“Disappointed in the pearl clutching by @NHGOP,” she tweeted. “There are families who have lost loved ones here & this mocking prop shows how little they empathize with suicide.”
Other Democratic lawmakers condemned the stunt as well, with 2020 presidential candidates Sen. Kamala Harris (CA) and Sen. Cory Booker (NJ) weighing in on Twitter:
“Too many guns are falling into the hands of dangerous people, threatening kids’ lives and making our communities less safe,” Harris said. “These moms are fighting to confront gun violence and protect our children. They don’t deserve to be mocked. We stand with you, @momsdemand.”
Booker tweeted: “Moms who want to keep their kids safe from gun violence don’t deserve this.”
But Kimberly Morin, president of the Women’s Defense League of NH — a women’s gun rights group that handed out the pearls on Tuesday — said the meaning of the necklaces was misconstrued.
Morin told the New Hampshire Union Leader that she and others in the group have been wearing pearls as a tactic since 2016.
“At the hearing for constitutional carry in Reps Hall, three of us were dressed in business professional clothes, wearing pearls, and someone from Moms Demand said they wouldn’t testify because they felt they were in front of a firing squad,” Morin explained. “So we’ve been wearing pearls in defense of women’s rights and the Women’s Defense League since then, because we are moms just like they are only on different sides.”
Rep. David Welch, one of the Republican lawmakers who wore a string of pearls, said the Women’s Defense League was handing out the necklaces to the public as well.
But Watts is convinced the legislators “decided to wear symbols that essentially mocked the process.”
“They showed they were not coming to this hearing with an open mind, and they were making light of survivors who were testifying on the suicide of a child, or women who were survivors of domestic abuse,” she said.