North Carolina: Donald Trump has been accused of making an “assassination threat” against rival Hillary Clinton, plunging his presidential campaign into a fresh crisis, the Guardian.
The volatile Republican nominee was speaking at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, about the next president’s power to appoint Supreme Court judges.
“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the second amendment”, said Trump, eliciting boos from the crowd.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the second amendment people, maybe there is, I do not know. But I’ll tell you what, that will be a horrible day”.
The second amendment to the constitution protects the right of Americans to bear arms. Trump has accused his Democratic rival of wanting to abolish it, a charge that she denies. His extraordinary remark on Tuesday was swiftly condemned by Democrats.
Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, said: “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”.
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting took place in Newtown in 2012, went further in a tweet: “Don’t treat this as a political misstep. It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis”.
British novelist Salman Rushdie then weighed in, tweeting: “Of course the Trump flacks are now trying to confuse the issue, but Senator Murphy is clear about what Trump meant”.
The claim was rejected by Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama and longtime Trump supporter. He responded on CNN: “Totally wrong. I don’t believe that’s true. I don’t believe that’s at all what he meant”.
However, Sessions acknowledged “it may have been awkwardly phrased”.
Campaigners for gun control expressed outrage at his impromptu remark. Po Murray, chair of the Newtown Action Alliance, said: “Donald Trump continues to pander to the corporate gun lobby and the gun extremists who thrive on fear and rhetoric.
“Any suggestion that gun violence should be used to stop Hillary Clinton from appointing Supreme Court justices is dangerous and reckless. It’s no surprise that 50 GOP national security experts have signed a letter making a pledge not to vote for him”.
Mark Glaze, former executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, said: “It may well be an incitement to violence, but understand it’s the basic theory on which the modern gun industry is built. Their core audience is people who hate the government and believe they are going to have to take up arms against it. My guess is this is a deliberate dog whistle to that significant number of people”.
“There are people out there who hear this kind of thing in a certain way, and if they’re already inclined to hatred of government and Hillary Clinton and see guns as a public policy solution, who knows what could happen?”
The Supreme Court has become a central election issue since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year, a conservative who has not yet been replaced. Trump claims that liberal judges could threaten the second amendment.