Why Did New Hampshire Lawmakers Wear Pearls During Gun Violence Testimony?

When members of Moms Demand Action, a national advocacy group that has aggressively pursued action on gun violence since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, showed up to testify while the New Hampshire legislature considers a red flag bill, they probably didn’t anticipate a warm welcome. But they certainly expected  to be received professionally by lawmakers who respected their experience and expertise.

What the activists got instead was mockery.

At least six male lawmakers showed up to the hearing wearing strings of pearls, and while men are certainly welcome to wear pearls, they’re an unusual sartorial choice — one the advocates say was chosen to stand out. Moms Demand Action members claim that the men were mocking them with the necklaces – an oblique reference to the slang term “clutching her pearls,” used to describe someone who is kicking up a lot of fuss over nothing.

It’s notable that the wearers were white, privileged men, and the expressions on their faces during the testimony speak volumes: They look disdainful and bored, and they aren’t engaging with what their constituents are saying at all.

A woman quickly rose to their defense: Victoria Sullivan, a former lawmaker, said the pearls were a nod to the Women’s Defense League, a pro-gun group in the state that wears the necklaces as a signature item.

In this sense, she implied, they were akin to other accessories lawmakers sometimes wear in a show of solidarity; for example, Democratic women in Washington have taken to wearing white as a symbolic gesture. And it’s not uncommon for lawmakers to wear or carry tokens from their home districts, especially when introducing or discussing legislation that will affect their constituents.

Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris both weighed in on the visual, increasing the probability that other 2020 candidates will speak up as well. For many Democrats seeking the nomination, gun violence is an important issue — and red flag laws are a highly effective way in.

These laws allow for the temporary removal of weapons from someone who appears to be a danger to themselves or others, and they appear to contribute to marked declines in suicide rates. Such laws are designed to strike a balance between concerns about gun violence and defenses of the Second Amendment. The legislation generally argues that an absolute right to guns in the face of a clear and present danger isn’t reasonable, and temporarily seizing guns can help someone get the help they need without compromising their rights.

Lawmakers haven’t responded to media organizations seeking comment, which doesn’t speak super well of them. It’s also not surprising.

New Hampshire has what’s known as a “part-time” legislature, meaning that for lawmakers and their staffs alike, this is not a full-time job. In fact, they make just $200 a year to sit in session and develop bills to address issues of concern to the state. Many aren’t career politicians, something part-time legislatures sometimes make into a point of pride.

But their lack of professionalism also means that they don’t necessarily have the public relations savvy and experience to rethink stunts that might reflect poorly on them — whether they wore the pearls to intimidate Moms Demand activists or because they genuinely wanted to show solidarity with the Women’s Defense League.

If they were hoping to get national attention, it worked: Moms Demand Action has definitely come out on top of this one.

Photo Credit: MN Senate DFL/Flickr

33 comments

Jennifer H
Jennifer H6 days ago

And they wonder why there is so much disdain for the current government. It should be obvious when they act like this.

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S M
S M8 days ago

My goodness, a bunch of men scared of women and because of that mock, bully, oppress womankind. The official term is MISOGYNY. ..... And this bunch of men so inadequate for their official position by this misogyny that they prepared to have themselves look stupid by wearing pearls, - they to themselves would look stupid but prepared to suffer that as they would tell each other they strong, macho, heterosexual men, so no one can mistake .... !, - in their effort to belittle the women coming to the meeting.

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Jean Dahlquist
Jean Dahlquist10 days ago

That whole system seems privileged. Who can afford to work in a legislature that doesn't pay you aside from those who already have money?

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Danuta W
Danuta W10 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn10 days ago

Noted

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Susanne R
Susanne R10 days ago

The article states: "It’s notable that the wearers were white, privileged men, and the expressions on their faces during the testimony speak volumes: They look disdainful and bored, and they aren’t engaging with what their constituents are saying at all."

Personally, I think they would have preferred to wear their garter belts and fishnet stockings instead of their pearls. Who knows? Maybe they were.

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Shirley S
Shirley S10 days ago

Petition signed

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Peggy B
Peggy B10 days ago

Petition signed.

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Peggy B
Peggy B10 days ago

Ironic that they were wearing pearls as pearls symbolize tears in many cultures. Japan, they were the tears of the gods. Christianity, pearls are Eve's tears when she was cast out of Eden. Many cultures won't wear pearls at their wedding as it symbolizes tears in the future. So, in this context, it's apropos that The Women's Defense League wear them.

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Sue H
Sue H10 days ago

Snakes in the grass. :(

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