On Tuesday, Donald Trump, in his usual sneering, grenade-throwing style, crossed a line.
Speaking at a rally in Wilmington, N.C., the Republican nominee again repeated the false claim that Hillary Clinton wants to "abolish, essentially, the Second Amendment."
He added, "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."
Trump did not elaborate on his little Second Amendment aside, which was delivered with s smirk. Except to the self-deluded, it is clear that Trump was hinting at violent means to alter the course of a Hillary Clinton presidency.
As the website Raw Story noted in an article on Wednesday, "Trump's threat is nothing new — Republicans have called for 'Second Amendment remedies' for years."
Democrats exploded with indignation. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., responded with two tweets: "Donald Trump makes death threats because he's a pathetic coward who can't handle the fact that he's losing to a girl."
And, "Your reckless comments sound like a two-bit dictator, Donald. Not a man who wants to lead the greatest democracy on the planet."
Even the Secret Service took note: "The Secret Service is aware of the comments made earlier this afternoon," the department tweeted.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman noted in a Wednesday column that such loose talk from the right in Israel helped incite the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 by an Israeli ultra-nationalist.
Ron Reagan, the youngest son of President Ronald Reagan said, "As a fellow whose father was nearly assassinated I don't find jokes like this particularly amusing."
Trafficking in hints or threats of violence is nothing new for Trump. He has at times condoned violence toward protesters at his rallies. He warned of riots at the Republican convention if he was denied the nomination.
Trump has even raised the specter of violence against as beloved a figure as Pope Francis.
Almost exactly a year ago, the real estate mogul and reality TV star responded to a question about Pope Francis' sharp critique of capitalism by noting those who want to do violence against the Vatican.
On CNN, reporter Chris Cuomo asked Trump how he would respond if he met the pope, who said to him that capitalism can be "a real avenue to greed, it can be really toxic and corrupt."
"I'd say ISIS wants to get you," Trump said. "You know that ISIS wants to go in and take over the Vatican? You have heard that. You know, that's a dream of theirs, to go into Italy."
"He talks to you about capitalism, you scare the pope?" Cuomo asked, surprised.
Trump here was smiling because, after all, the pope had not actually said anything to or about him. In February, however, when flying back from a visit to Mexico, Pope Francis said in response to a journalists' question, without mentioning names: "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian."
Trump again responded by raising the specter of violence in an exchange where it was wildly inappropriate. He issued a press release he later read at a rally suggesting that the leader of the Catholic church would regret not supporting his candidacy.
"If and when the Vatican is attacked by ISIS, which as everyone knows is ISIS' ultimate trophy," Trump said, "the pope can have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened."
All this shows how quick Trump often is to play the violence card in one way or another, even against a beloved, if outspoken, international religious figure. The candidate's response that he was speaking on Tuesday of non-violent political activism by gun owners is not credible in light of this tendency.
We wonder how long the Paul Ryans and Mitch McConnells of the Party of Lincoln will continue to accept the unacceptable. A casual hint about assassination of a political opponent is as un-American as it gets. The GOP leadership needs to repudiate Trump now.