Tucson, Ariz. — Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stood in federal court to face her would-be assassin on Thursday moments before he was sentenced to life in prison for killing six people and wounding 13 others, including Giffords, last year.
Jared Loughner, 24, a college dropout with a history of psychiatric disorders, received seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison, without the possibility of parole, under a plea deal with prosecutors that spares him the death penalty.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said the life sentences he imposed - one for each of the six people who lost their lives and a seventh for the attempted assassination of Giffords - represented the individuality of the victims.
“He will never have the opportunity to pick up a gun and do this again,” Burns said.
Giffords suffered a head wound that left her with speech difficulties, a paralyzed right arm, diminished sight and a limp.
Addressing the court along with several survivors of the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting, Giffords’ husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, told Loughner he had failed in his attempt to “extinguish the beauty of life.”
Kelly used the occasion to take a political swipe at Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a staunch gun-rights advocate, criticizing her for speaking out against proposed restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, like the ones Loughner used, in the aftermath of the shooting.
“Jan Brewer said it had nothing to do with the size of the magazine. … She said this just one week after you used a high-capacity magazine,” Kelly said, also noting that she named a “state gun” weeks later instead of “fixing the education system.”
Loughner, asked at the outset of the hearing by Burns if he had chosen to waive his right to make a statement, answered in a low voice, “That’s true.”