It’s a bit unclear what’s going on with these Republican lawmakers wearing strings of pearls, but every explanation is bad
During a hearing on new gun control legislation, a group of New Hampshire GOP lawmakers donned strings of pearls while victims of gun violence gave testimony. While the exact reasoning behind the pearls remains unclear, it’s obvious that the lawmakers were inappropriately taking sides and acting unprofessionally toward constituents during the legislative session.
The pearl-wearing politicians were captured on camera by Shannon Watts, the founder of the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
“Male New Hampshire lawmakers on the hearing committee wearing pearls to mock @MomsDemand volunteers and gun safety advocates,” she wrote when posting the pictures.
Watts believes that the necklaces were worn as a reference to “pearl-clutching,” the idea that gun safety advocates are too weak or easily scared of firearms. It’s tough to argue with her conclusion considering the subject matter of the hearing.
But others say that the pearls are connected to another women’s group, the Women’s Defense League, a New Hampshire gun rights group that is focused on training and educating women about using firearms and protecting themselves. The group has been wearing pearls at events for several years, calls them “freedom beads,” and claims to have handed the necklaces to the lawmakers.
“These men are supporting women and supporting women who support actual women’s rights. They are the farthest thing from sexist and there was a woman lawmaker wearing them, too. That was conveniently left out,” Kimberly Morin, the president of the group, told CNN.
But Watts shot back that even if the pearls were connected with the pro-gun group, they were still completely offensive and inappropriate to wear during testimony from survivors of gun violence and families of victims.
“These lawmakers were wearing (pins of) semiautomatic rifles on their lapels as well as pearl necklaces, which they know to be symbols of opposition to Moms Demand Action,” Watts told CNN. “This is not respectful or appropriate behavior.”
As for the lawmakers themselves, most refused to comment on the issue at all — which is pretty telling in itself.
Rep. John Burt, a Republican who was at the hearing, said that he would have worn pearls if he hadn’t forgotten his string at home. And he had harsh words for those wanting gun control.
“The anti-gun out-of-state lady and the other anti-gun folks need to get over themselves,” he told TPM. “This had nothing to do with them. It is to support the Women’s Defense League and the good they do to train women to protect their children.”
“Who does not want to protect their children?” he continued. “O ya, some anti-gun folks do not.”
Republican Representative Dennis Fields claimed he wore the pearls only because he thought it had to do with Mardi Gras.
The other men identified as wearing the pearls included David Welch, Scott Wallace, and Daryl Abbas, all Republicans.
The legislation is a “red flag law,” which establishes a way for emergency gun access restrictions to be placed on people who are an “immediate risk to themselves or others.” It was brought to the floor by New Hampshire state Rep. Debra Altschiller, a Democrat.
When CNN asked her what she thought of the Women’s Defense League’s explanation of the pearls, she said:
“Well, I think that’s a lovely way to put a shine on what we all know is — an untrue statement. You can put lipstick on that, but it’s not going to shine it up.”
She also spoke up on Twitter.
Some 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls also weighed in, agreeing that the pearls directly mocked the people who came to be heard by lawmakers.
Whether the representatives were outwardly trying to mock and intimidate those testifying, or whether they were simply showing support to a pro-gun group, their decision to wear the pearls (and the gun lapel pin – holy hell) is definitely an unprofessional move, and an insult to our political system. It would be like someone wearing a flame pin to a hearing on forest fire management, or holding a protest sign when you’re supposed to be an impartial judge, listening to your constituents with an open mind. You can have your opinions while still being respectful, and while still giving at least some semblance of a fair and thoughtful process. These lawmakers completely failed on that front with this wildly insensitive move.
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