Republican Donald Trump has blamed the media after being accused of urging supporters to kill his Democratic rival for the White House, Hillary Clinton.
He told Fox News “dishonest” reporters had twisted his remarks, which appeared to suggest that gun rights advocates could stop Mrs Clinton if elected.
The businessman-turned-politician denied incitement and said he was exhorting his supporters to vote.
The comments on Tuesday afternoon sparked a firestorm of criticism.
Some interpreted his comments as a dark suggestion that gun owners could take up arms against Mrs Clinton, while others said they were at the very least irresponsible remarks that could have violent consequences.
The highest-ranked Republican, House Speaker Paul Ryan, said it was an inappropriate joke.
And Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said it was a death threat by a “pathetic coward” who was sore because he was trailing in the polls to a woman.
The controversial remarks were made at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, and refer to a future president’s power to nominate a judge to fill a vacancy on the US Supreme Court.
The Republican presidential nominee said of his Democratic opponent: “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment, by the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks.
“But the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
The Second Amendment enshrines the right to bear arms in the US Constitution, and there is no evidence that Mrs Clinton wants to abolish it, although she does want to tighten some restrictions.
Within minutes of him uttering the words, the criticism began to mount and Mr Trump issued a statement saying he was referring to the political power of gun rights advocates.
Hours later, Fox News host Sean Hannity told him the media had been “spinning it” differently.
Mr Trump answered by saying there could be no other interpretation of his words other than the one he had given.
“Even reporters have told me, I mean give me a break. But they’re dishonest people.
“What it is is there’s a tremendous power behind the Second Amendment.
“It’s a political power, and there are few things so powerful, I have to say, in terms of politics.”
Mr Trump’s remarks come after eight days of negative headlines and falling poll numbers.
Some leading Republicans have said they cannot vote for him in November’s presidential election because of his controversial comments and his hardline stance on immigration.