At a campaign stop in Wilmington, North Carolina, on Tuesday afternoon, Donald Trump made an extemporaneous comment that appeared to suggest that Hillary Clinton should be shot to prevent the appointment of liberal Supreme Court judges:
“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick —[crowd booing]—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 straightforward reading of these comments would be that he suggested assassination, if even in a joking manner. (Ending sentences in “I don’t know” is a common Trump locution after a joke.) It’s not totally clear whether Trump meant Clinton would be the target, or that he was suggesting shooting the judicial nominees or using arms in some other way to prevent them from taking a seat on the court.
Trump’s campaign immediately blasted out a statement that attempted to clarify his remarks. “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,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Trump was clearly talking about a hypothetical time after Clinton had been elected and was selecting nominees, however.
Regardless of what was in Trump’s head when he made the comment, there is little doubt that legions of his fans will take this as a suggestion of violence—Second Amendment solutions to government overreach is a common formulation among Tea Partiers and radical pro-gun groups.
Last month, Ben Carson—who has endorsed Trump—said on Fox News, “They’re always saying you don’t need a high-powered weapon to hunt deer. The Constitution is not about deer hunting. It’s about people being able to defend themselves from an overly aggressive government or an external invasion.”
When she was campaigning for the senate in 2014, now-Senator Joni Ernst said at an NRA rally, “I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family—whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.”