WILMINGTON, N.C. — Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that if Hillary Clinton is able to pick federal judges as president, nothing could be done to protect the right to bear arms. He then added, without elaboration, that supporters of the Second Amendment could maybe figure out a way.
Speaking at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, the Republican nominee incorrectly said his general election opponent wants to "essentially abolish the Second Amendment."
He continued: "By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know."
Within minutes, Clinton's campaign and an outside group backing her candidacy denounced the celebrity businessman's remarks as an attempt to incite violence.
"This is simple — what Trump is saying is dangerous," said Robby Mook, Clinton's campaign manager. "A person seeking to be the president of the United States should not suggest violence in any way."
The pro-Clinton group Priorities USA blasted out an email with the subject line: "Donald Trump Just Suggested That Someone Shoot Hillary Clinton."
The Trump campaign was equally quick to dispute that interpretation of his remarks, saying he was simply touting the "amazing spirit" of Second Amendment supporters.
"It's called the power of unification - Second Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power," said Jason Miller, Trump's senior communications adviser. "And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won't be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump."
Catherine Milhoan, a spokeswoman for the Secret Service, said: "We are aware of his comments." She declined to answer any additional questions about Trump's remarks.
The Second Amendment provides a constitutional right to citizens to own guns. Clinton supports some new restrictions on gun ownership, but has not advocated overturning the amendment.
Trump's remarks immediately set off a firestorm of criticism on social media and threatened to upstage discussion of his economic policy speech the day before and his swing through the key battleground state of North Carolina.
Trump's comments Tuesday also come a few weeks after one of his campaign advisers said that "Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason."
The Secret Service is investigating those remarks, made last month by Al Baldasaro, a New Hampshire state lawmaker and an adviser to Trump on veterans issues. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said then that neither Trump nor his campaign agree with Baldasaro's comments.
Lemire reported from New York.