TUCSON, Ariz. -- A federal judge has ruled that the man who killed six people and wounded former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will die in prison. Jared Lee Loughner received seven life terms and 140 additional years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns called the life sentences symbolic, one for each person who died and one more for the attempted assassination of the Congresswoman.
Mark Kelly helped his wife, Giffords, make her way to the podium. He turned it so it faced Loughner. Kelly addressed the killer in the hushed courtroom.
He told him that, insane or not, he was responsible for his actions. He told Loughner he failed in trying to take Giffords down. Then he told Loughner that after this sentencing, he and Gabby were done thinking about him.
The former Congresswoman stared straight at Loughner the entire time, her chin slightly tilted up.
Congressman Ron Barber, himself wounded in the attack, told Loughner he remained angry. "I told him that he must now live with this burden and that he will never see outside a prison again," he said.
Other victims who came to court to witness the sentencing told Loughner that he tried to murder a representative who could have helped him.
Loughner simply sat still, his arms crossed in front of him. He spoke only once, telling Burns he chose not to address the court.
Suzi Hileman, who had brought 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green to Giffords' "Congress on Your Corner" event to see democracy, faced Loughner as well. "You turned a civics lesson into a nightmare," she said.
Some of these survivors used the opportunity to face Loughner and to also speak to policymakers about mental health reporting requirements.
Bill Badger was shot that day, then helped take Loughner down. Mental health reporting has become one of his focuses since.
"If the shooter had got help, this shooting would never have happened," Badger said.
That was a conversation even the federal judge said legislators should take up. Burns also spoke toward the availability of extended handgun magazines. Loughner's magazine clip made it possible for him to continue firing without stopping to reload.
Pam Simon was Giffords’ staffer. "I often believe that Jared Loughner himself wished he had been stopped from obtaining the means to cause such destruction," she said.
And because of that, Simon and other survivors have worked since the shootings for better firearm controls throughout the country.
The Tucson killings happened 22 months ago. At the close of Thursday’s proceedings, local prosecutors announced they have chosen not to prosecute Loughner in Pima County. From a legal standpoint, that marks the end of this story.