‘Second Amendment people’ remark: Trump’s own words give the lie to later explanations

CNN panelists discussing Donald Trump’s Second Amendment remarks

One more follow-up on Donald Trump’s irresponsible and inflammatory call to arms against Hillary Clinton yesterday:

I just watched a fairly amazing segment from CNN in the aftermath of yesterday’s event. The Trump supporter on the panel was Dan Bongino, who is both a former Secret Service agent and now a Republican candidate for Congress in Florida. The video shows a portion of the interview where it turns into a shouting match between Borgino and CNN host Don Lemon. Borgino argues that it’s obvious what Trump meant, that he meant that “Second Amendment people” should organize and vote to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president and not that they should assassinate her.

Even though the panel contained some very smart people (David Gergen and Jeffrey Toobin) who believed the remark was serious and should be investigated by the Secret Service) no one made the obvious point that Trump’s own words make clear that he was not talking about the need for Second Amendment supporters to defeat Clinton at the polls.

Look at the Trump quote that started all this. After describing Clinton as someone who wants to virtually repeal the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms (which is a fairly dramatic exaggeration of Clinton’s gun control position) and noting that the next president will get to make Supreme Court appointments that could shift the current court doctrine on the meaning of the Second Amendment (which is true), Trump says:

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” and then, as the audience started to boo the horrible fate that would await them, he added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

So, first of all, he is referring to something that “you folks can do” after Clinton has been elected and is in a position to nominate judges to the Supreme Court, which is after it is too late for any group to organize and vote to prevent her from becoming president.

And second of all, he is most explicitly referring to something that “Second Amendment people,” different from other people, “can do” to stop her from “picking her judges.”

Any voter and any group of voters can organize and vote for Trump and against Clinton. Trump says to the audience at large, “nothing you can do folks” to stop Clinton from nominating judges after she has been elected president. Then adds: “Although Second Amendment people – maybe there is, I don’t know.”

If Trump or his supporters like Bongino want to argue that this was a clear reference to organizing and voting before the election, he or they need to explain why this is something that only “Second Amendment people” can do. And then, of course, the classic Trumpian smoke machine about whether there is something that Second Amendment people can do “maybe there is, I don’t know.”

But don’t let him or anyone defending him get away with saying this was a generic encouragement to his supporters to organize and vote without explaining why it’s something that only “Second Amendment people” can do, and why the something is set after Clinton is in a position to “pick her judges.”

A couple of updates: Before I published the post above, I should have checked to see what Mr. Trump himself was saying about the controversy. Trump went on the Sean Hannity show last night on Fox. Hannity, instead of asking Trump to clarify or correct his remarks, asserted that it was obvious to him, personally, that Trump meant that Second Amendment supporters should organize and participate in the political process and that the liberal media was making a big deal out of it because of their animus toward Trump.

Trump agreed that yes, this was what he meant and that there was no other way to interpret his remark. Neither of them even mentioned the other interpretation, nor did Trump explain why this was something that only Second Amendment people could do.

In Hannity’s defense, I should note that he makes no claim to be interested in fairness nor in any element of truth that doesn’t fit his ideology.

I also checked Trump’s twitter feed.

Trump first retweeted two statements from NRA (National Rifle Association). The one said:

@RealDonaldTrump is right. If @HillaryClinton gets to pick her anti-#2A #SCOTUS judges, there’s nothing we can do. #NeverHillary

and then a second one:

“But there IS something we will do on #ElectionDay: Show up and vote for the #2A! #DefendtheSecond #NeverHillary

In his own voice, Trump then tweeted:

“Media desperate to distract from Clinton’s anti-2A stance. I said pro-2A citizens must organize and get out vote to save our Constitution!”

Then Trump tweeted out video Bongino’s appearance on the CNN show with Don Lemon.

and followed up with: 

@dbongino You were fantastic in defending both the Second Amendment and me last night on @CNN. Don Lemon is a lightweight – dumb as a rock.”

I tried to search his twitter feed, not sure how far back the search might go, but did not see any previous comment by Trump about Don Lemon’s intelligence.

I have not yet seen anyone ask Trump why organizing politically to defeat Clinton is something that only Second Amendment people can do.

I’ll try to stop obsessing on this for a while, but I hope someday someone will ask him about this and keep asking until some semblance of an answer emerges. The quote is:

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” and then, as the audience started to boo the horrible fate that would await them, he added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 08/10/2016 - 01:46 pm.

    Too easy for the opposition–

    Everybody knee jerking all over this. Easy to do when writing about the jerk many love to hate. This latest bit is one of searching well beyond what was said, in a pose of looking closely behind what was said to what Trump truly meant. There is no Webster, no OED for Trump-speak. In this instance, chasing allusion is simple delusion.

    Do his specific words matter? To a non-partisan fairly objective listener/reader….yes. If you wish to read “Second Amendment people,” to specify only gun owners–and crazy gun owners, at that–you will, without deference to others. Here’s the nut to shell: If Trump truly meant “shoot her,” would he not signal it to be done before she sits in the Oval Office? Given his falling poll numbers prior to this statement, why would he allude to shooting her after it’s essentially too late? Given the elemental fact the November winner will appoint judges, that threat is immediate to the election, as well. Is it not great presumption to declare the timing from his words, in any case? That’s irrelevant, as well. I believe I have not defended indefensible Trumperism to date; however, this statement is not clear, one way or the other, as the CNN reference reveals.

    It’s certainly OK to view Trump as “deranged” to some extent, according to personal prejudices; however, to exhibit TADS (Trump Acquired Derangement Syndrome) is to follow him into the loony bin and take a bed in the same ward.

    [CNN is pretty second-rate these days, by the way.]

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 08/10/2016 - 02:54 pm.

      Nudge nudge wink wink

      I thoroughly disagree. I did listen to the words and timing of the words. It was definitely intended to have a double meaning, “Know what I mean? Know what I mean? Nudge nudge wink wink. Say no more.” If he didn’t intend for gun owners to get the meaning that they could accomplish things in non-violent way, he would have said what his handlers said later about the “amazing gun lobby” or some other horse pucky. He didn’t. But while it COULD be interpreted as innocent, it could also be interpreted (and was meant to be interpreted by the right people) to mean something else. The Donald is no dummy, and lots of his “gaffes” aren’t gaffes, but rather one of two things: 1. direct plays to a core of racist-leaning, angry white men who want to feel like their thoughts are legitimate, or 2. coded messages to the crowd of option 1.

      Coming from a gun owning household, where my father was an NRA member for a good part of his adulthood, I am very familiar with the Nudge Nudge Wink Wink Trump used right there–it’s actually a common way to fan the flames of the NRA base, which is who he was speaking to at that moment. It isn’t a stretch at all, it was intentional and somewhat (hamhandedly) clever. Does he actually mean for it to happen? I don’t know. But it’s absolutely the intended message. Say no more, say no more.

    • Submitted by Bill Phillips on 08/11/2016 - 07:33 am.

      well, I have to agree with Eric’s analysis of Trump’s comments – in context they can only refer to a post-election “correction” (if you will) by “Second Amendment people.” It’s a typical sly comment by Trump, skirting an outright call for violence, but playing pretty close to the line. And, of course, it’s a complete misrepresentation of Clinton’s position on firearms. I recall similar comments about the election of President Obama, and the subsequent scare resulting in scarfing up of ammunition by gun owners, but the record of the last eight years shows no limiting of the rights of gun owners. Indeed, Congress has failed to take any action to even limit access to firearms by the mentally ill or persons on terrorist threat lists, and individual states have expanded concealed (and unconcealed) carry laws for gun owners. Lets be honest folks, Congress isn’t going to flout the gun lobby in any significant way, regardless of who is president. This issue is all about building on unreasonable fears, not about the reality of current politics.

    • Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 08/11/2016 - 10:34 pm.

      Sorry Jim….

      but smoke and mirrors are too late for Trump. It is very obvious to an intelligent person what Trump meant. He is grasping at straws like he was in the first debate. The man is in over his head and any intelligent person who attempts to defend and thwart his ignorant comments is guilty of being an accomplice.

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/10/2016 - 02:23 pm.

    Inappropriate Remarks

    Donald Trump is a very wealthy, powerful businessman. Like most of his ilk, he is able to surround himself with people who are dependent upon him for their livelihoods and careers. In an executive meeting of the Trump Organization, who is going to say, after the Man Himself makes an inappropriate remark, that he shouldn’t be saying those things? Odds are, no one, or at least, no one who will ever be heard from again in the Organization. The typical reaction will be sycophantic laughter.

    In the private sector, he can get away with it. In the public sector, not so much. This is one reason why the outsider who has stayed away from politics all his life is often a rotten choice for a candidate.

    Incidentally, I haven’t seen what the audience reaction to Trump’s remark was. I understand Rudy Giuliani said that, if Trump had “really” called for Hillary Clinton’s murder, the crowd would have been even more enthusiastic. Did anyone walk out? Are the people who show up at Trump rallies really that bloodthirsty?

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/10/2016 - 02:50 pm.

      Just one

      CNN interviewed today a guy in a red shirt, sitting behind and to Trump’s left when the remark was made. The very cordial North Carolinian explained to the CNN interviewer that, in a different environment, “southerners” would have taken Trump “to the woodshed” where it would have been explained to him that it was the sort of remark that one might make privately (scary enough, in my view), but that it was inappropriate in a public context. When asked directly by the CNN anchor whether he would vote for Trump, the red-shirted North Carolinian did his best to evade the question for a while, but eventually admitted that, yes, he still intended to vote for Trump.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/10/2016 - 02:59 pm.

    The word

    …that fits the Trump campaign at the moment, at least for me, is “dissembling.” On some topics, the term also fits the Clinton campaign, but for me, at least, trying to weasel out from under the implication that a zealot with 2nd Amendment delusions should take out the opposing candidate, trumps (I use the term advisedly) concerns about Clinton errors regarding emails. Saying, as the Trump campaign spokesman just said on CNN, that Mrs. Clinton is a serial liar, ignores piles of documentation showing that Mr. Trump’s truthiness also falls far short of Sunday School standards.

    As Dan Rather recently wrote, “History is watching.”

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 08/10/2016 - 08:43 pm.

      Pretty Much

      The shoe does fit both feet. The significance to the public seems mainly a matter of relatives sizes: foot vs. mouth. Trump’s definitely the bigger mouth, not necessarily the loudest in terms of how far reaching it is.
      As for feet, it appears the HRC foot is smaller than the mouth, helping her get her foot quickly removed, with help from others, of course. The Donald does physically have a rather small mouth–certainly for a guy with a loud voice–as well as feet much larger. When he sticks a foot in his mouth, it takes 5-6 days to get it back out.

      Things really aren’t getting better for either campaign with respect to judgment, seems to me. It’s difficult for me to care about any polling spread–not when drip-drip of embarrassing information continues to slicken the slides of both sides. This is the first such race in mind to make many negative ads positive information.

  4. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 08/10/2016 - 03:58 pm.


    I agree that it’s probably a waste of time to try to make sense out of Trump’s babbling. The guy has made no sense since he began this quest last year. But it’s equally wrong to ignore how his followers interpret his remarks, especially those who apparently don’t think assassination or murder is too extreme of a political solution. There are too many of such unbalanced people in the US today and they need no encouragement from a man who is now, for good or ill, the leader of a major political party, even if he doesn’t succeed in getting elected.

  5. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/11/2016 - 11:45 am.

    Too cute

    Funny how Trump disparages political correctness, but doesn’t have the guts to say what me means. He’s more weasely than Clinton 42.

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