Donald Trump’s comments Tuesday suggesting that “2nd Amendment people” could stop Hillary Clinton from making judicial nominations sparked outrage from opponents — but the campaign defended the remarks by arguing that Trump was referring to the group’s considerable political power.
“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump said during a rally in North Carolina on Tuesday.
“By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
The Clinton campaign and other Trump opponents rejected Trump campaign’s explanation and blamed the GOP nominee for suggesting violence as a possible means of preventing Clinton from appointing judges if she is elected president.
“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,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said in a statement.
And Sen. Chris Murphy, D-CT, responded on Twitter: “Don’t treat this as a political misstep. It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis.”
And Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., took to social media to say: “@realDonaldTrump makes death threats because he’s a pathetic coward who can’t handle the fact that he’s losing to a girl.”
She added, “Your reckless comments sound like a two-bit dictator.”
One of the strongest voices condemning Trump was that of Gabby Giffords, who as a congresswoman from Arizona was shot in the head during a public event in January 2011.
“Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence,” Giffords said in a joint statement with her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. “What political leaders say matters to their followers.”
But Trump’s campaign denied that he was suggesting violence, instead saying the real estate mogul was referencing the power gun rights advocates have at the voting booth.
“It’s called the power of unification — 2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement. “And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”
And Trump running mate, Mike Pence, told reporters Tuesday afternoon that Trump “is clearly saying is that people who cherish that right, who believe that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens makes our communities more safe, not less safe, should be involved in the political process and let their voice be heard.”
Asked whether Trump was suggesting violence, Pence said, “of course not, no. Donald Trump is urging people around this country to act in a manner consistent with their convictions in the course of this election, and people who cherish the Second Amendment have a very clear choice in this election.”
Clinton obviously has Secret Service protection, and Cathy Milhoan, director of communication for the agency said they were “aware of the comments” but had no further statement.
It’s not the first time suggestions of violence have become part of the campaign. Last month, the Secret Service said it was investigating New Hampshire State Sen. Al Baldasaro, who serves as an adviser for Trump’s campaign on veteran’s issues, after he called for Clinton to be executed for “treason” related to her use of a private email server.
A Trump spokesperson said the candidate did not agree with those statements. Still, Baldasaro received a shout-out from the candidate at a campaign event last weekend.