MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
To Tucson now and an emotional scene in federal court. Victims and their families confronted the man responsible for a shooting rampage last year in which six people were killed and 13 wounded.
Jared Lee Loughner was sentenced to seven life terms plus 140 years. Among those who spoke, the husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She was among those wounded and was herself in the courtroom today. NPR's Ted Robbins was there, and he joins me now. And, Ted, we mentioned a lot of emotion. Why don't you describe the scene today in court?
TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Yeah. Melissa, the victims, you know, court personnel, even reporters who've been covering the story were so genuinely happy to see each other. A lot of smiles and handshakes. But once the proceedings began and people started telling their stories, it was like being dragged back to January 8, 2011. It was emotional.
BLOCK: We mentioned that Gabby Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, was among those who spoke today. Who else spoke? What did they say?
ROBBINS: Well, you know, I counted 10 people. Some shooting victims, those who lost parents or partners spoke. And Gabby Giffords stood with her arm in a sling next to her husband, Mark Kelly. She had difficulty speaking, so he spoke for both of them.
There was a theme for most of the speakers. They recounted the hurt, the need for better mental health diagnoses and care. Loughner had schizophrenia. And many of the people, a number of them, including the judge, talked about a need to reinstate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004, and would have outlawed the sale of large ammunition clips, which Loughner used to fire more than 30 shots in less than a minute.
I mean, here's a quote from Mark Kelly: "We have a political class that is afraid to do something as simple as have a meaningful debate about our gun laws and how they are being enforced." Then he had - he directly addressed Jared Loughner. He said, you have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did. But after today, after this moment, here and now, Gabby and I are done thinking about you.
After sentencing, there was a news conference. Ron Barber, who was the Giffords staffer who was shot and then succeeded her in Congress, he repeated some of what he said to Loughner directly. Here it is.
REPRESENTATIVE RON BARBER: I hold no hatred for you, but I am very, very angry and sick at heart about what you did and the hurt you have (unintelligible) imposed on all of us. I told him that he must now live with this burden and he'll never see outside of a prison again.
BLOCK: Ted, was there any reaction from Jared Loughner as these people addressed him in court?
ROBBINS: Yeah. He just sat there. It was hard to tell because no one told us. But the way he looked, he may have been sedated. He's been on meds. A couple of times, he sighed, slumped in his chair. His parents behind him, though, and his father at least was - he was visibly sobbing at points.
BLOCK: Ted, you live in Tucson. You've been covering this case from the beginning. Do you have a sense of what today's sentencing might mean for the victims and for the community there?
ROBBINS: You know, I think the judge put it best, Judge Larry Burns, federal judge. He said in court - and I'm sort of paraphrasing now - he said, you know, many people might have been looking for emotional closure today, but the best that he could offer was a judicial resolution.
BLOCK: OK. NPR correspondent Ted Robbins in Tucson. Ted, thanks very much.
ROBBINS: You're welcome.
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