Male Republican politicians in the New Hampshire House of Representatives have denied they were wearing pearl necklaces during a committee hearing to mock gun control advocates, after accusations to that effect were widely shared on social media.
On Tuesday, the Committee for Criminal Justice and Public Safety heard testimony from those affected by gun violence, while considering a bill that will make it easier for families and law enforcement officers to restrict gun access to people they consider a danger to themselves and public safety.
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However, it was not what was said at the hearing that led to controversy but rather the images that emerged after Shannon Watts, founder of the gun control group Moms Demand Action, tweeted photos of the Republican men on the committee wearing pearls and claimed they were doing it to belittle those giving testimony.
“Male New Hampshire lawmakers on the hearing committee wearing pearls to mock Moms Demand Action volunteers and gun safety advocates,” she wrote.
Her post condemning the men quickly spread, accruing more than 6,000 shares and almost 5,000 comments.
“Mocking mothers isn’t brave,” read one comment, which received more than 6,000 “likes”. “Lowly weak men mocking women don’t scare us.”
Ms Watts’s tweet even drew the attention of Democrat presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris and Corey Booker, who both condemned the Republican men.
“Moms who want to keep their kids safe from gun violence don’t deserve this,” wrote Mr Booker.
Debra Altschiller, a Democratic representative who sponsored the bill, tweeted: “Disappointed in the pearl clutching by @NHGOP [New Hampshire Republicans]. There are families who have lost loved ones here and this mocking prop shows how little they empathise with suicide.”
Women’s Defense League
The Republicans have responded that in no way were the pearls being worn to mock anyone but were instead worn at the request of a pro-gun Women’s group.
New Hampshire Republicans communications director Joe Sweeney told the BBC News: “The pearls were distributed by the Women’s Defense League of New Hampshire – a group that trains women in self-defence through the Second Amendment.
“The use of pearls date back to 2016 and the legislators and Second Amendment supporters were in no way wearing them in a mocking fashion to those who came to testify yesterday.
“They are a symbol of solidarity with the Women’s Defense League and the Second Amendment community in the Granite State.”
Photos from the groups’s website show both men and woman wearing pearls on previous occasions.