Jared Loughner, the man who shot congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head, wounded 12 others and killed six in a deadly attack at an outdoor political meeting in Tucson, Arizona in January 2011, pleaded guilty to 19 counts in a deal that spared him the death penalty.
"You may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her spirit and commitment to make the world a better place," said Giffords' husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, speaking in a packed courtroom Thursday - the first time Giffords faced the man who attempted her murder.
“By making death and producing tragedy, you sought to extinguish the beauty of life, to diminish potential, to strain love and to cancel ideas,” said Kelly. “You tried to create for all of us a world as dark and evil as your own. But remember it always: You failed.”
Loughner was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms in prison plus 140 years in jail.
The case has been at the forefront of debate in the U.S. as lawmakers and citizens cited the grizzly incident as proof that the effectiveness of gun control in the country must be questioned.
Federal District Court Judge Larry A. Burns said he was not going to make “political statements,” and said he alone had “no intention to change the law.” But he did add that he questioned the rationale and purpose of allowing the unrestricted sale of high-capacity magazines, similar to the one Mr. Loughner used as he embarked on his violent killing spree.
“I don’t understand the social utility of allowing citizens to have magazines with 30 bullets in them,” Judge Burns said.
Kelly pointed to recent tragedies in the U.S. that might have been avoided if stricter gun control laws were put in place - tragedies in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson and most recently in Aurora (where a gunman killed 12 and wounded 58 in a movie theater) - where dozens of lives were lost because, as Kelly put it, politicians are “afraid to do something as simple as have a meaningful debate about our gun laws.”