US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has come under harsh criticism over controversial comments that some people interpreted as a threat of violence by gun activists against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
The New York businessman’s remarks drew condemnation on Tuesday following a speech he had made earlier in the day during a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, about the next president’s power to appoint US Supreme Court justices.
“Hillary wants to essentially abolish the second Amendment,” Trump said in the rally, referring to the US Constitution’s clause that enshrines the right of Americans to carry firearms and weapons.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the second amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what, that will be a horrible day,” he added.
Hillary Clinton addresses supporters during a rally at the Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Florida on August 8, 2016. (AFP photo)
Trump’s comments were construed by some senators in the US Congress as an assassination threat.
“Don’t treat this as a political misstep. It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis,” said Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy.
The Republican presidential nominee’s campaign immediately responded to the accusations, blasting “dishonest media” for quoting Trump.
“It’s called the power of unification – 2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” Jason Miller, the campaign’s senior communications adviser, 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,” he added.
Clinton supports some new restrictions on gun ownership, but does not back overturning the amendment. Trump’s comments came a few weeks after one of his campaign advisers said the former secretary of state should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court Justices are nominated for life by the president and are confirmed by the Senate by majority vote. Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates have made clear they would not support a nominee by the incumbent US President Barack Obama .
Antonin Scalia, who died on February 13 at the age of 79, was the court’s longest-serving member and the intellectual anchor in the Supreme Court’s conservative wing.