LITTLE ROCK - Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other top Republican elected officials in Arkansas said Wednesday they do not believe Donald Trump intended to encourage violence when he said Tuesday that Second Amendment supporters have something they could do about Hillary Clinton.
Some expressed concerns about the carelessness of the comment, however.
The Republican presidential nominee sparked controversy by saying at a rally in North Carolina that his Democratic opponent would “essentially abolish” the Second Amendment and that “if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Some have accused Trump of encouraging violence against Clinton, which Trump has denied, saying he was talking about voting. Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday he did not see the remark as threatening.
“I personally did not see any implication of threat or encouragement to violence in that statement,” he told reporters. “But obviously, it’s a statement that could be misconstrued, and no one should be careless about their comments in terms of the safety of other candidates and how they’re treated in the campaign cycle.”
Hutchinson said that to him Trump’s comment “conveys that if you want to protect your Second Amendment, then you need to make sure you go to the polls and vote.”
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said when asked about Trump’s comment, “As far as suggesting that he wants to do physical harm to Secretary Clinton, I think that’s a real, real, real stretch.”
Democrat Conner Eldridge, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Arkansas who is challenging Boozman’s re-election bid, said Trump’s comment was “astounding.”
“This is no laughing matter, this is no joke,” Eldridge said. “No one — in either political party — can sit idly by as this continues. We have an obligation to call this out for what it is: Trump continues to demonstrate that he is unfit to be president of the United States.”
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said, “It’s not what I would have said. I think his campaign team said what he was saying was people who support the Second Amendment can go out and vote. He left it kind of open-ended. I don’t think it was an appropriate thing for a public official to say, just the way he left it there. It leaves your mind to wonder, ‘What did he actually mean?’”
Westerman said Trump “has got to focus more on the issues. I think he can win on the issues, if he’ll just focus on the issues.”