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Gun control advocate criticizes Republicans for wearing pearl necklaces during hearing

The leader of a gun control advocacy group criticized male Republican state lawmakers in New Hampshire for wearing pearl necklaces during a hearing for a bill that would allow courts to restrict some people from having guns.

Shannon Watts, who founded Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America after the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, said in a tweet the lawmakers were mocking volunteers from her group who were at the hearing on Tuesday. "Meanwhile, their constituents are in tears as they testify about gun suicides and domestic gun violence in their families," Watts tweeted.

Other critics on social media accused the men of insensitivity and sexism, saying the politicians thought gun control activists were "clutching their pearls" in outrage, The Washington Post reported.

GOP state Rep. David Welch, who wore one of the necklaces, told the New Hampshire Union Leader the pearls were handed out by the Women's Defense League of New Hampshire, which opposes gun-control measures, including the bill at the center of Tuesday's hearing. Kimberly Morin, the leader of the Women's Defense League, told the newspaper its members have been wearing the necklaces at such hearings since 2016, when it showed support for a bill allowing gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

She said the pearls are worn "in defense of women's rights."

"We are moms just like they are only on different sides," Morin told the newspaper.

However, two U.S. senators running to be the Democratic nominee for president said the Republicans' jewelry went too far.

"Moms who want to keep their kids safe from gun violence don't deserve this," New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said on Twitter.

California Sen. Kamala Harris agreed. "These moms are fighting to confront gun violence and protect our children," she said on Twitter. "They don't deserve to be mocked."

The hearing focused on a so-called "red flag" bill that would allow family members or law enforcement officers to go to court to try to take guns away from people who may pose an immediate threat. Fourteen states have already passed such laws, according to The Associated Press.   

The hearing included testimony from Margaret Tilton of Exeter, whose son George died by suicide in 2017 at the age of 23, according to the AP. Tilton told the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee that police were able to convince him to hand over a gun in 2016, but he was able to buy another one.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense founder Shannon Watts joins other gun-safety advocates for a news conference to introduce legislation to expand background checks for firearm sales in the Rayburn Room of the U.S. Capitol Jan. 8, 2019, in Washington.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense founder Shannon Watts joins other gun-safety advocates for a news conference to introduce legislation to expand background checks for firearm sales in the Rayburn Room of the U.S. Capitol Jan. 8, 2019, in Washington. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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