During a rally in North Carolina this afternoon, Donald Trump said that “second amendment people” could find a way to stop Hillary Clinton.
While speaking about the idea that the next president will be able to appoint Supreme Court justices, Trump said that if Hillary Clinton wins the election, there will be nothing that can be done to stop her from making appointments. He then corrected himself in a brief aside, saying that there may in fact exist a solution.
“If she gets to pick her judges…nothing you can do, folks,” Trump said. “Although, the second amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know.”
After these comments began to blow up on Twitter, many Trump supporters argued that what the candidate meant was that the National Rifle Association, i.e. “second amendment people,” might be able to prevent gun control legislation from passing. But it wasn’t clear what this had to do with stopping Supreme Court justices from being appointed, which is what Trump was talking about.
Within a half hour, the Trump campaign put out the following statement, in which they argued that Trump only meant gun owners should vote against Clinton in the election:
It’s called the power of unification – 2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power. And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.
However, in context it was clear that Trump was talking about doing something after Hillary Clinton became president, not on Election Day.
The Clinton campaign put out their own statement condemning the comments as dangerous:
This is simple – what Trump is saying is dangerous. A person seeking to be the President of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.
In an interview on Tuesday afternoon, Trump said he was referring to political power.
Before making this remark, Trump had been accusing Hillary Clinton of wanting to abolish the second amendment, which is a frequent talking point at his rallies. This comes a few days after Trump praised his veteran’s adviser, Al Baldasaro, who once called for Hillary Clinton to be executed for treason, according to The Daily Beast.
Gabrielle Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence, painted Trump’s comments as irresponsible in a statement:
Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence. Responsible, stable individuals won’t take Trump’s rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy. They may provide inspiration or permission for those bent on bloodshed.
What political leaders say matters to their followers. When candidates descend into coarseness and insult, our politics follow suit. When they affirm violence, we should fear that violence will follow.
It must be the responsibility of all Americans – from Donald Trump himself, to his supporters, to those who remain silent or oppose him – to unambiguously condemn these remarks and the violence they insinuate. The integrity of our democracy and the decent of our nation is at stake.
On Twitter, U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell said that Trump should be investigated by the Secret Service.
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut also argued that Trump’s comments should be considered an assassination threat.
Though it was hard to believe Trump was legitimately suggesting Hillary Clinton be shot, it was immediately clear that his comment was at the very least eyebrow-raising, as was apparent even to some of those sitting behind Trump.
This news came about 24 hours after Trump delivered a major economic speech meant to reset the campaign and move it away from gaffes that distracted from the real issues.