WILMINGTON (North Carolina) • Mr Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to raise the possibility that gun rights supporters could take matters into their own hands if Mrs Hillary Clinton is elected president and appoints judges who favour 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.
Slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr's daughter Bernice King called Mr Trump's words "distasteful, disturbing, dangerous".
WHAT AND HOW HE SAID IT
If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks...
'' MR DONALD TRUMP, speaking at a rally after accusing his opponent Hillary Clinton of wanting to strip Americans of their gun rights. He paused, then offered a postscript...
Although the Second Amendment people - maybe there is, I don't know.
'' MR TRUMP
Mrs Clinton's running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, 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.
And Mr Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign and Centre to Prevent Gun Violence, which has endorsed Mrs Clinton, said his statement was "repulsive - literally using the Second Amendment as cover to encourage people to kill someone with whom they disagree". He added: "For Trump, violence has become a standard talking point, a common punch line, and even a campaign strategy."
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 in November. "The Second Amendment people have tremendous power because they are so united," he told a CBS affiliate in North Carolina late on Tuesday.
In an interview with Fox News, Mr Trump grew adamant. "There can be no other interpretation," he said. "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.
His other controversial remarks
ATTACK ON NEWS ANCHOR
She gets out and she starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.
'' MR TRUMP, speaking about Fox News Channel anchor Megyn Kelly.
NO WAR HERO
He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured.
'' MR TRUMP, on Arizona Senator John McCain.
ASKING RUSSIA'S HELP
Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.
'' MR TRUMP, in an apparent reference to Mrs Clinton's deleted e-mails.
If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably, maybe, she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.
'' MR TRUMP, on Mrs Ghazala Khan, who was standing beside her husband Khizr Khan, when he spoke at the Democratic convention. The Khans are parents of a slain Muslim American soldier.
And even those in Mr Trump's audience appeared caught by surprise. A video of the rally showed a man seated just over Mr Trump's shoulder go slack-jawed and turn to his companion, apparently in disbelief, when the Republican candidate made the remark.
Mr Trump's fellow opponents of gun control stood by him, focusing on his depiction of Mrs Clinton as a threat to the Second Amendment.
"Donald Trump is absolutely correct," said National Rifle Association strategist Jennifer Baker. "If Hillary Clinton is elected, there is nothing we can do to stop her from nominating an anti-gun Supreme Court justice who will vote to overturn the individual right of law-abiding citizens to own a gun in their home for protection."
The uproar over Mr Trump's off-the-cuff remark came as his campaign was faced with a series of public opinion surveys showing him quickly losing ground to Mrs Clinton.
His comment was also made just a day after his campaign called his delivery of a prepared economic speech in Detroit evidence of a newfound political discipline.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said that he had only heard about Mr Trump's remark but that it sounded like "just a joke gone bad".
Mr Ryan added: "I hope he clears it up very quickly. You should never joke about something like that."
NEW YORK TIMES