On Aug. 9, Republican nominee Donald Trump made possibly his most controversial comment to date.
At a rally in North Carolina, Trump broke from his scripted speech to speak against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment," he said. "By the way, and if she gets to pick -- if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
The meaning of these words, which immediately incited laughter from a few in the crowd and shock from others, has been up for debate since the rally.
Vox commented that, like many of the things Trump says, the meaning wasn't clear. Others believe his comment was a failed and unacceptable stab at humor.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “It sounds like a joke gone bad. You should never joke about that.”
“That,” of course, refers to violence against the Democratic candidate and possible future president of the U.S.
A politician joking about killing another human being is never tolerable. In 2016, such jokes seem especially inappropriate.
The Gun Violence Archive reports that as of Aug. 10, the number of gun violence incidents in 2016 totals 33,366. Any comment even remotely reminiscent of a joke about gun violence is insensitive to those affected by these incidents.
As a political figure, Trump needs to be aware of who he affects with his words.
In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said, “I don’t think Trump had any intention of threatening violence against Hillary Clinton.”
Sessions and the Trump campaign reject claims that his words were meant to be comical in any way.
In a tweet posted by Trump that night, he said, “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!”
People have varying opinions on Trump’s true intentions. But the intention does not matter, according to former CIA Director Michael Hayden. In an interview with CNN following Trump’s rally, Hayden said, “You aren’t just responsible for what you say; you’re responsible for what people hear.”
Hayden is correct. High-profile politicians need to be wary of their words and actions and the way the public interpret them.
No matter how many times Trump and his campaign state the comment was a call for Second Amendment supporters to exercise their right to vote in November, voters across the country heard a call for an assassination of Hillary Clinton.
Whether he intended his words as a joke or not, Trump's comment crossed a line.