While pointing out the differences between himself and Hillary Clinton, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump made statements at a rally Tuesday in Wilmington, North Carolina, that could or did suggest violence.
“Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish — the Second Amendment,” he said as the audience booed.
“If she gets to pick her judges: Nothing you could do, folks — although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know,” he added with the crowd laughing and whistling. “But I’ll tell you what, that will be a horrible day (pause) if, if Hillary gets to put her judges.”
Because of the lack of clarity, critics interpreted the comment as Trump suggesting gun rights advocates will take up arms if Clinton, as president, nominates Justices to the Supreme Court.
“The threat of gun violence towards a political opponent, their possible appointees, or the United States government is unacceptable from anyone, even in jest, and is especially egregious from a candidate for the highest office in the land,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
Horwitz said in his statement the point-of-view Trump used in his comment — of an armed insurrectionist — has been mainstreamed by the National Rifle Association, an pro-gun organization that endorsed Trump in April at its annual convention.
The gun lobby’s focus this campaign has been telling its members that Clinton would appoint Justices who would overturn or rule against pro-gun cases in the high court and effectively abolish the Second Amendment.
While Clinton’s stated efforts do not include outright abolishing the Second Amendment, she does promote sweeping gun control measures that have been advocated by leading gun control groups.
Gabby Giffords, a former Arizona Congresswoman who was the subject of vitriolic political comments before an assassination attempt in 2011, called Trump’s rhetoric dangerous and reckless.
“We must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence,” Giffords said. “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.”
Giffords released her statement with her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. Together they lead gun control advocacy group Americans for Responsible Solutions.
Clinton’s campaign, like many, responded Trump’s comment on social media to condemn calls for violence. “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,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager.
After the backlash, Trump’s campaign affirmed the resilience of pro-gun advocates in a press release titled “Trump campaign statement on dishonest media.”
“It’s called the power of unification – Second Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” said Jason Miller, Trump’s senior communications advisor. “And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”