During the sentencing of Tucson gunman Jared Loughner at the U.S. District Court of Arizona on Nov. 8, Mark Kelly held nothing back when it came to his feelings about the nation’s gun laws.
Kelly, the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was one of many to address Loughner directly, but his firm words were intended to find the ears of the nation’s lawmakers as well.
On Jan. 8, 2011, Loughner arrived at a Congress on Your Corner, armed with a Glock 19 pistol with an extended magazine. In his shooting rampage, he emptied the 30-round clip, killing six and wounding 13 others including Giffords, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head.
In his address to Loughner, Kelly was critical of lawmakers in allowing the availability of such weapons to the public.
“We are a people who can watch a young man like you spiral into a murderous rampage without choosing to intervene before it is too late,” he said. “We have a political class that is afraid to have meaningful debates about our gun laws and how they are being enforced. We have representatives who look at gun violence not as a problem to solve, but as the white elephant in the room to ignore. As a nation, we have repeatedly passed up the opportunity to address this issue. After Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Tucson, and after Aurora, we have done nothing.”
Kelly went on to slang Gov. Jan Brewer for comments made shortly after the shooting occurred.
“In this state,” he said, “We have elected officials so feckless in their leadership that they would say, as in the case of Governor Jan Brewer, and I quote, ‘I don’t think it has anything to do with the size of the magazine or caliber of gun. Even if the shooter’s weapon had fewer bullets, he’d have another gun, maybe. He could have three guns in is pocket.’ She said this just one week after a high capacity magazine allowed you to kill six and wound 13 others, before being wrestled to the ground while attempting to reload. Our state legislature thought it appropriate to busy itself naming an official Arizona state gun just weeks after this tragedy occurred, instead of doing the work it was elected to do.”
Brewer didn’t respond to Kelly’s words. Brewer’s spokesman Matthew Benson did however issue a statement applauding the justice behind Loughner’s life sentence, adding, “On this solemn occasion, Governor Brewer isn’t interested in engaging in politics.”
Presiding Judge Larry Alan Burns agreed with Kelly, taking a moment to speak on the issue before carrying out Loughner’s sentence.
“There’s a bigger issue here in my mind when it comes to the protection of the public, and it’s something Commander Kelly alluded to,” said Burns. “I don’t intend to make a political statement, that’s not my intention…but the community and society need to renew the debate and dialogue about whether magazines, like the one Mr. Loughner used, ought to be available to citizens. It makes sense to me that the utility for this type of weapon would be available for armed servicemen, and maybe for police, but I don’t understand allowing citizens these types of weapons. It makes no sense to me at all.”
Prior to 2004, magazines such as the one used by Loughner were prohibited under federal law.
Daniel Hernandez, an intern of Giffords’ at the time of the shooting, thanked Kelly and Burns for addressing the issue of gun laws.
“I would like to thank today Commander Mark Kelly, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and also Judge Burns for their courage for standing up and saying things that we have not said for a very long time,” he said. “We must do more to ensure that when we are looking at gun laws, we are doing our very best to ensure we have common sense gun laws in place. Having folks with extended magazines is no longer acceptable. We must do what we can to close the loopholes, and to make sure people have the ability to bear arms, because it is our constitutional right, but making sure that it is common sense and reasonable.”
Loughner was sentenced to seven life sentences and 140 years in prison.