By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Rep. David Welch’s remarks to the full House Thursday about being threatened and harassed in email and phone messages for wearing fake pearls to the “red flag” gun hearing on March 5 continue to stir debate.
Rep. Debra Altschiller, D-Stratham, wasn’t buying Welch’s statement at the end of the day’s session Thursday and responded to an InDepthNH.org request for comment.
During the hearing on the bill, Shannon Watts of Colorado, founder of the group Moms Demand Action for Guns Sense, tweeted from the State House that the men were mocking the people who were supporting the bill and tearfully testifying about losing loved ones to suicide by gun.
Altschiller and supporters of the bill she sponsored – which has since been shelved – say it would have allowed police and family to petition for temporary “extreme risk protection order” to remove access to firearms if the person in crisis is a danger to himself, herself or others.
“Representative Welch asked for unanimous consent to offer a ‘sorry not sorry’ speech about his behavior during the public hearing on HB 687, relative to Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” Altschiller said.
“Rep. Welch accepted and wore a string of fake pearls from the co-directors of the so-called ‘women’s defense league.’ As stated by the ‘WDL’ president, Kim Morin, during the hearing, at 10:24 a.m. through her Twitter account to her 28 thousand followers: ‘Moms Deserve to be mocked. THEY are the reason we wear the pearls-because they were soooo afraid to testify (all 4 of them) during Constitutional Carry hearings while WOMEN were dressed professionally, wearing pearls #HB687 #NHPolitics.’”
Altschiller said Welch was given the pearls from the WDL who were very clear about the reasons they decided to bring them to the hearing, to mock Moms Demand Action.
When asked via email to respond to criticism, the Women’s Defense League emailed a news release dated March 7.
It condemned “out-of-state activists deflecting a debate on the merits of HB687, a bill they have financed – onto legislators who may hold an opinion different for theirs.”
The press release said: “Kimberly Morin, President of the League, repeatedly informed media that ‘Pearls represent support of the Women’s Defense League and support of actual women’s rights. WDL has worn and distributed them for years, dating back to our early work on repealing nearly 100 years of ethic and gender discrimination by passing Constitutional Carry.”
In an email, Altschiller said Welch also participate in a WDL rally.
“When Rep. Welch took to the Well five days after the well-publicized rally all choked up that he had to deal with the ramifications of participating in an inflammatory action (wearing pearls at the hearing) and then being a public speaker in his role as an elected Representative at a rally held by the pearl distributors, he not once acknowledged all of this firestorm was his own creation,” Altschiller said.
Welch, R-Kingston, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
On Thursday to his colleagues, Welch complained about receiving many vile email and phone messages from all over the world after the March 5 hearing.
“Newspapers from all over the world had the story from supporters of the bill who claimed that I was mocking the women – some of whom were telling personal stories of family members who had committed suicide. Believe me when I tell you my heart goes out to those folks,” Welch said.
“The grief they must feel,” Welch said, his voice breaking up. “I’m familiar with.”
Some accounts suggested he should apologize, he said.
“For those few women who spoke at the hearing and were disturbed by my show of support for women who choose to defend themselves with firearms rather than seek to disarm the populace, I do apologize.
“But for the vast majority of women who with their filthy language called me every name in the book and those reporters who did not take the time to ascertain the facts before condemning myself and my colleagues, I will not apologize and I will continue to support all citizens who act responsibly whether or not I agree with them,” Welch said.
Altschiller said: “Rep. Welch knowingly engaged with a group who stated their intentions to mock a group of NH families who have buried their children & family members due to preventable gun violence. He accepted the gift of their pearls that were distributed to communicate the mocking of victims. He is now experiencing the consequences of his chosen actions.”
“There were 325+ people in Representatives Hall the day of the hearing with no less than 6 different video cameras recording. Rep Welch knew this. After the hearing he willingly participated in a rally, again with the pearls. Now that his behavior is not being celebrated he expresses incredulity, shocked outrage?” Altschiller said.
Rep. Jess Edwards, R-Auburn, emailed InDepthNH.org Friday to say the article posted on Welch’s speech was unfair.
“Yesterday was about Rep. Welch being the target of death threats and ugly written assaults because fake news media failed to do its job of fact-checking before publishing.
“Rep. Welch offered an apology to those that attended the hearing but specifically said that he would not apologize to those who intentionally misrepresented the symbolism behind the WDL pearls which dates back to 2016. Upon completion of this floor speech, he received a standing ovation with both sides of the aisles mostly rising in support of our colleague,” Edwards said.