Some male members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives made a controversial sartorial choice Tuesday morning at a hearing on a proposed gun control measure: pearls.
The jewelry, donned by at least six men on the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, angered many of the volunteers present from gun-control group Moms Demand Action, according to founder Shannon Watts.
“When I walked in statehouse, lobbyists and lawmakers said ‘look, we’ve seen lawmakers wearing pearls to mock the moms,’” Watts told TPM.
Watts said that she was given differing rationales for the significance of the pearls. “I heard a couple of stories: that a member of Moms Demand Action years ago complained that she was intimidated by an NRA member wearing pearls; someone else said it was to symbolize pearl-clutchers.” She said that some of the lawmakers also wore pins shaped like automatic rifles.
The hearing was on proposed emergency risk protection order legislation, colloquially known as “red flag laws,” which allow for a person’s right to buy or own a firearm to be suspended if he or she can be proven to be a risk to himself/herself or others.
None of the committee members, including the lawmakers who can be identified in pictures to be wearing the pearls, responded to TPM’s requests for explanation.
Former Republican Rep. Victoria Sullivan claimed on Twitter that the pearls were a favored accoutrement of the Women’s Defense League, a pro-gun rights group, and that the lawmakers were showing support.
Women of the @WDLNH wear pearls to hearings, rallies, and events as a sign of solidarity. Shannon Watts knows knowing about NH, neither do MOST of the moms demand people in attendance. NH is one of the safest states in the country. These ridiculous women want to make us victims. https://t.co/TqYp8O2iai
— Victoria Sullivan (@VSullivan4NH) March 5, 2019
Watts didn’t buy it.
“I fully expect backtracking,” she said. “I don’t expect the lawmakers, at least three of whom are up for reelection in 2020, expected it to go viral. It’s not a good look.”
As identifiable in Watts’ pictures, Reps. Daryl Abbas, Scott Wallace and David Welch — all Republicans — are wearing the pearls. All three men are also up for reelection next year.
“Many of our volunteers were disgusted,” Watts said. “Some of them are gun violence survivors who were giving testimony.”
She added that though she and her group found the stunt insulting, they also saw the reaction as evidence of the group’s effectiveness.
“I think it’s a sign of the fact that Moms Demand Action has become a political powerhouse in New Hampshire,” she said, adding that they combated the pearls with their own brand of symbolism: a sea of red shirts, emblazoned with an American flag.