Donald Trump has boasted that he could shoot someone in the middle of a crowded street, without it affecting his popularity.
The frontrunner in the race to be named the Republican candidate for the White House, Mr Trump made the comments at a campaign rally in Iowa.
He faced an immediate backlash amid accusations of insensitivity, after a spate of killings in America has pushed the debate about gun violence to the top of the political agenda.
But when asked to clarify his comments after the rally, he refused to comment.
"I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue [New York] and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters," he said. "It's, like, incredible."
He pointed directly at a camera recording the speech and imitated pulling a trigger as he made the comments.
The business mogul has received unwavering and growing support from crowds of loyal backers among the Republican grassroots in his bid to become the next US president.
In response, many tweeters criticised Trump for his comments.
Vanessa Contessa wrote: “The leading #GOP candidate threatening gun violence as a lark?”
While Shirley Ann Adams tweeted: “Trump has gotten to the point where he should be put on a Govt. watch list. Dangerous inciteful rhetoric.”
Donald Trump's most controversial quotes
Donald Trump's most controversial quotes
1/14 On Isis:
"Some of the candidates, they went in and didn’t know the air conditioner didn’t work and sweated like dogs, and they didn’t know the room was too big because they didn’t have anybody there. How are they going to beat ISIS?"
2/14 On immigration:
"I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me —and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words."
3/14 On Free Trade:
"Free trade is terrible. Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have stupid people."
PAUL J. RICHARDS | AFP | Getty Images
4/14 On Mexicans:
"When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists."
5/14 On China:
"I just sold an apartment for $15 million to somebody from China. Am I supposed to dislike them?... I love China. The biggest bank in the world is from China. You know where their United States headquarters is located? In this building, in Trump Tower."
6/14 On work:
"If you're interested in 'balancing' work and pleasure, stop trying to balance them. Instead make your work more pleasurable."
7/14 On success:
"What separates the winners from the losers is how a person reacts to each new twist of fate."
8/14 On life:
"Everything in life is luck."
9/14 On ambition:
"You have to think anyway, so why not think big?"
10/14 On his opponents:
"Bush is totally in favour of Common Core. I don't see how he can possibly get the nomination. He's weak on immigration. He's in favour of Common Core. How the hell can you vote for this guy? You just can't do it."
11/14 On Obamacare:
"You have to be hit by a tractor, literally, a tractor, to use it, because the deductibles are so high. It's virtually useless. And remember the $5 billion web site?... I have so many web sites, I have them all over the place. I hire people, they do a web site. It costs me $3."
12/14 On Barack Obama:
"Obama is going to be out playing golf. He might be on one of my courses. I would invite him. I have the best courses in the world. I have one right next to the White House."
13/14 On himself:
"Love him or hate him, Trump is a man who is certain about what he wants and sets out to get it, no holds barred. Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money."
14/14 On America:
"The American Dream is dead. But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before and we will make America great again."
There were a total of 373 mass shootings in the United States in 2015, an average of more than one per day.
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