Amid the chaos of the shots, passers-by wrestled Loughner to the ground. Before he was subdued, he had fired 31 more shots, six fatal.
The nation waited as doctors worked to save Giffords' life in what has been described as a miraculous recovery. She then turned to her long-term and widely followed rehabilitation. Her first visit to Congress before stepping down from office led to a prolonged ovation from her colleagues.
The facts in the case were never in doubt. Loughner was the only suspect. The key issue focused on whether he would avoid the death penalty because of his mental health. After the shooting, Loughner was diagnosed with schizophrenia and underwent forcible psychotropic drug treatments.
It was after those treatments that Loughner realized that he had only wounded Giffords, whom he saw as the personification of a government the shooter said he hated, prosecutor Wallace Kleindienst said in his comments to the court.
U.S. District Court Judge Larry A. Burns, who presided over the proceedings, had previously ruled that Loughner was capable of understanding the charges against him. This paved the way for a plea agreement designed to ensure that Loughner would spend the rest of his life in prison without possibility of parole. Three months ago, Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 federal charges. The agreement includes the dismissal of 30 other charges and a sentence of seven consecutive life terms, followed by 140 years in prison.
"The evidence clearly shows that he knew what he was doing, despite his mental illness," Burns said in handing down the sentence. He called the length of the sentence justified.
Susan Hileman, one of the victims, shook as she addressed the court.
"We've been told about your demons, about the illness that skewed your thinking," said Hileman, adding, "It's all true. <t40>...<t$> It's not enough.
"You pointed a weapon and shot me three times," she said, staring directly at Loughner. He looked back at her. "And now I walk out of this courtroom and into the rest of my life and I won't think of you again."
Loughner's mother Amy, sitting in the courtroom, wiped tears from her eyes.
"There is no way to make sense of those senseless acts," said another of the wounded, Rep. Ron Barber, a former top aide to Giffords who replaced his boss in Congress. "Our lives are forever changed."