(NY Times)– Donald J. Trump on Tuesday appeared to raise the possibility that gun rights supporters could take matters into their own hands if Hillary Clinton is elected president and appoints judges who favor stricter gun control measures.
Repeating his contention that Mrs. Clinton wanted to abolish the right to bear arms, Mr. Trump warned at a rally here that it would be “a horrible day” if Mrs. Clinton were elected and got to appoint a tiebreaking Supreme Court justice.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Mr. Trump said, as the crowd began to boo. He quickly added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Oblique as it was, Mr. Trump’s remark quickly elicited a wave of condemnation from Democrats, gun control advocates and others, who accused him of suggesting violence against Mrs. Clinton or liberal jurists. Bernice A. King, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., called Mr. Trump’s words “distasteful, disturbing, dangerous.”
Mrs. Clinton’s running mate, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, expressed disbelief. “Nobody who is seeking a leadership position, especially the presidency, the leadership of the country, should do anything to countenance violence, and that’s what he was saying,” Mr. Kaine said in Austin, Tex. He called Mr. Trump’s remark “a window into the soul of a person who is just temperamentally not suited to the task.”
And Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which has endorsed Mrs. Clinton, said Mr. Trump’s statement was “repulsive — literally using the Second Amendment as cover to encourage people to kill someone with whom they disagree.”
“For Trump, violence has become a standard talking point, a common punch line, and even a campaign strategy,” Mr. Gross said.
Paul D. Ryan, the Republican House speaker who has had a tense relationship with Mr. Trump, told reporters on Tuesday night that the remarks sounded “like a joke gone bad.”
He added: “You should never joke about that. I hope he clears it up quickly.”
Mr. Trump and his campaign did not treat his remark as a joke; instead, they insisted he was merely urging gun rights supporters to vote as a bloc against Mrs. Clinton. “The Second Amendment people have tremendous power because they are so united,” he told a CBS affiliate in North Carolina late Tuesday.
In an interview with Fox News, Mr. Trump grew adamant. “There can be no other interpretation,” he said, adding, “I mean, give me a break.”
But at his rally earlier in the day, Mr. Trump had actually been discussing what could happen once Mrs. Clinton was president, not before the election.
And even many in the audience seemed caught by surprise. Video showed a man just over Mr. Trump’s shoulder go slack-jawed and turn to his companion, apparently in disbelief, when Mr. Trump made the remark.