- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman said Wednesday he didn’t think Donald Trump’s declaration that gun rights supporters might still find a way to stop Hillary Clinton was appropriate since it was unclear what the GOP presidential hopeful was trying to say.

Westerman, who represents south and west Arkansas, said he thinks Trump needs to focus more on the issues after the comments prompted an uproar.

Trump said Tuesday there would be “nothing you can do” if Clinton is elected to stop her from stacking the Supreme Court with anti-gun justices, then added ambiguously, “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is - I don’t know.” Trump insists he wasn’t advocating violence against his Democratic rival.

“His campaign team said what he was saying was people who support the Second Amendment can go out and vote. He kind of left it open ended,” Westerman, who has said he’ll support Trump in November, told reporters. “But I don’t think it was an appropriate thing for a public official to say, just the way he left it there, because it leaves your mind to wonder what did he actually mean?”

Two of the state’s top Republicans defended Trump and said they didn’t view his comments as suggesting violence against Clinton.

“I personally did not see any implication of threat or encouragement to violence in that statement,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “But obviously it’s a statement that can 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.”

U.S. Sen. John Boozman said he hadn’t been aware of Trump’s remarks but didn’t see them as a threat to Clinton.

“You’ll have to ask Mr. Trump what he meant by it. I don’t know, but I think … that’s a reach as far as suggesting he would mean anything in that regard,” Boozman said.

Boozman’s Democratic challenger, former federal prosecutor Conner Eldridge, criticized Trump for the comments and criticized Boozman for not calling out his party’s nominee for his controversial remarks.

“No one - in either political party - can sit idly by as this continues,” Eldridge said in a statement released by his campaign.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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