When Gabrielle Giffords confronted Jared Lee Loughner, the man who shot her on the head in a mass shooting in Tucson, the two just intensely stared at the other, her husband Mark Kelly said on Friday.
“Gabby’s eyes were locked on his the entire time as I read our statement. I kept looking up and his expression would change. He was paying attention to what we were saying,” Kelly, a retired astronaut, told NBC’s "Today" Show. “He wasn’t really happy at points, and I almost felt like during that whole few minutes that he and Gabby were having quite the staring contest.”
On Thursday, Loughner, 24, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for wounding Giffords and 12 others and killing six people in a January 2011 shooting rampage in a grocery story parking lot. Giffords, then a member of Congress, had been holding a routine Saturday morning meet-and-greet event with constituents when Loughner approached her and opened fire.
Prosecutors maintain that Loughner, who was diagnosed as a schizophrenic, saw Giffords as the face of a government he didn’t like. Loughner is expected to continue his treatments for the rest of his life in prison.
At his federal court sentencing in Tuscon, the confrontations between Loughner and his victims, especially Giffords, took center stage. Giffords, whose recovery has inspired the nation, decided to attend the hearing about a month ago.
“This was something we’ve been thinking about for the last month,” Kelly said. “Before that, she wasn’t really interested in attending, but about a month ago she changed her mind and thought it would be a good idea for her to be there to get some sense of resolution to what happened.”
“Inside the courtroom, it was pretty comfortable until the moment that he walked in and then it was pretty intense to be sitting just probably about 30 feet from where Jared Loughner was,” Kelly said in the interview. “Gabby was sitting up in her chair and sitting up straight, spent a lot of time looking at him. It was the first time she really had ever seen him.”
During his statement in court Thursday, Kelly criticized GOP Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and other politicians for not doing enough on gun laws. He repeated those complaints on Friday.
“We have a Congress that could address it as well. We’ve got state legislatures, governors. This is obviously a problem. I mean, we have gun violence that happens time and time again in this country. I think almost everybody would agree that we have a problem,” Kelly said.
“We’ve got very smart people and we’ve got committed legislators, you know, that can work on the issue and it should be worked on,” he said. “I think, you know, repeatedly we lost the opportunity, and I hope somebody picks up that mantle and tries to do something about it.”
For Giffords, the focus is on rehabilitation.
“It’s a struggle every single day for her,” Kelly said. “She can’t drive a car, her vision is an issue, as well as her arm.”
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