Some Republican members of the New Hampshire state legislature wore pearls as anti-gun violence activists testified at a hearing into a law on firearms control Tuesday.
Activists took this to mean that the politicians were mocking them as “pearl clutchers,” but at least one of those members said he was just wearing them because he opposed the law.
Pictures tweeted Tuesday by Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, showed at least three legislators wearing the pearls:
Some politicians wearing the pearls at the meeting of the House Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety were identified as David Welch, assistant majority leader in the state’s House of Representatives, Daryl Abbas and Scott Wallace.
All three represent districts in Rockingham County, and all three oppose stricter gun laws, according to Citizens Count, a website that tries to keep New Hampshire voters informed about their politicians.
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“Pearl clutching” is a term that suggests someone is demonstrating moral shock in a manner that can be seen as performative.
Watts, for one, felt that was how the politicians were trying to characterize herself and fellow activists.
“It really is shameful to behave that way when your constituents are being brave enough to share their stories,” she told The Washington Post.
“They clearly did not come to this hearing with open minds or compassion for their constituents.”
The hearing was focused on a bill that, if passed, would allow family, household members or law enforcement to seek court orders to restrict firearms access to people who’ve been found to pose an “immediate risk to themselves or others.”
As the Post noted, New Hampshire would become the 15th state to pass such a law if it went through.
The pearls weren’t meant to mock any activists, said Kimberly Morin, head of the Women’s Defense League of N.H., an organization that “defends 2nd Amendment rights.”
Pearls, she said, have been worn at hearings going back to 2016, when a bill came forward about allowing concealed carry without a permit, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported.
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“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 told the newspaper.
“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.”
Welch, who is identified by Citizens Count as a firearms instructor with the National Rifle Association (NRA), said the Women’s Defense League handed out pearls before the meeting and that he wore them to show he was against the bill.
“They gave them out to a bunch of us,” he said.
Watts, however, wasn’t the only one who was offended at the pearls.
Debra Altschiller, a New Hampshire Democrat who sponsored the bill, said the Republicans who wore them showed “how little they empathize with suicide.”