In response to female activists advocating for gun control, a group of male lawmakers in the New Hampshire House of Representatives wore pearl necklaces, which some saw as the politicians mocking the women "clutching their pearls" in outrage.
Images of Republican state reps. Daryl Abbas, Scott Wallace and David Welch all wearing the pearl necklaces circulated on Twitter after Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, shared them on social media.
\u201cOf the 13 person ERPO hearing committee, 10 of the lawmakers are men; half of them are wearing pearls to mock @MomsDemand volunteers. Meanwhile, their constituents are in tears as they testify about gun suicides and domestic gun violence in their families. #NHPolitics\u201d
Watts said several of the mothers were in tears while discussing the deaths of loved ones. The lawmakers have yet to say why wore the pearls, but the Washington Post said calls to the representatives' offices were either not returned or met with a full mailbox voicemail message.
Watts called the behavior "shameful" to the Post. "They clearly did not come to this hearing with open minds or compassion for their constituents." Watts said at least five representatives -- all men -- were wearing pearls during the hearing. One wore a pin with a semi-automatic rifle, as well.
The gun control advocates spoke on the floor as legislators heard arguments over a bill that would make it easier to take guns away from people who might be dangerous, the Post reports. The bill is similar to a law in 14 other states.
However, leaders from a pro-gun women's group say the pearls are actually a show of solidarity with them. Members of the group said that the pearls symbolize support opposition to the bill and the second amendment.
"The PEARLS are in support of the Women's Defense League. Women who ACTUALLY PROMOTE GUN SAFETY and WOMEN'S RIGHTS," Kimberly Morin, president of the Women's Defense League of New Hampshire, tweeted.
\u201cThe PEARLS are in support of the Women's Defense League. Women who ACTUALLY PROMOTE GUN SAFETY and WOMEN'S RIGHTS #nhpolitics #HB687\u201d
Morin told the New Hampshire Union Leader that the Women's Defense League has been wearing the pearls since a 2016 hearing for a concealed carry bill.
"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 Union Leader. "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."
Whatever their motivation, fellow New Hampshire legislators were not thrilled with their colleagues' stunt.
Debra Altschiller, a Democratic state representative who sponsored the bill, tweeted her dismay with the male lawmakers' decision.
"There are families who have lost loved ones here & this mocking prop shows how little they empathize with suicide," she wrote on Twitter.
\u201cDisappointed in the pearl clutching by @NHGOP. There are families who have lost loved ones here & this mocking prop shows how little they empathize with suicide. @MomsDemand @Everytown @ProgressNH @GiffordsCourage #ERPO #NHPolitics\u201d
"I was raised to disagree without being disagreeable," state Rep. Matt Wilhelm (D) said, according to the Post. "Granite Staters deserve to be respected when they come to testify in their House of Representatives."
New Hampshire's former Democratic Party state chair Kathy Sullivan called the behavior "rude, sexist, unprofessional, unwelcoming," according to the Post.