At a campaign rally yesterday, Donald Trump seemed to suggest that a way to protect the Second Amendment could be for “Second Amendment people” (i.e., gun owners) to take action against his Democratic rival:
“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially, the Second Amendment,” he said. “By the way, and if she gets the pick—if she gets the pick of her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I dunno.”
Was he simply joking? Perhaps. But as The Atlantic points out in analyzing the video of his statement, “At no point in recent American history has the nominee of one of the two major parties even jested about the murder of a rival.”
The Trump campaign’s excuse for the statement – that he was exalting the unified political power of “Second Amendment people” and that “this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump” – rings hollow. He seemed to be talking about what could be done if Hillary wins and appoints gun control-oriented judges, not what could be done to defeat her to begin with.
In and of itself, and even as a joke, this is deeply troubling. But the broader, darker context includes Trump supporters’ chants of “lock her up” at the Republican National Convention and shortly before Trump addressed yesterday’s rally. And just this past Saturday, Trump praised his veterans’ affairs adviser, who declared last month that “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”
Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (himself no Trump fan) offered a marginally different interpretation of Trump’s threat, tweeting “I think he meant you could shoot judges.”
For a more sympathetic and conceivably insightful view of Trump’s unfortunate statements, check out the Onion.