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Nov 9, 2012 10:13 AM

Mark Kelly discusses Loughner sentencing on NBC's Today Show

(NBC NEWS) - For the first time since she was shot in the head, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords came face to face with the man who pulled the trigger.

Giffords and her husband former astronaut Mark Kelly were in a Tucson, Arizona courtroom Thursday when Jared Loughner was sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole.

On NBC's today show this morning, Kelly said his wife didn't decided to attend the hearing until recently.

"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," Kelly said. "Inside the courtroom it was pretty comfortable until the moment that he walked in and then it was pretty intense to be sitting just about 30 feet from where Jared Loughner was."

Kelly said Giffords and Loughnher had sort of a staring contest as he read the couple's statement in court.

"So we moved to the left side of the podium so we could look directly at him . Gabby's eyes were locked on his the entire time," Kelly said. "And as I read our statement I kept looking up and his expression would change. He was paying attention to what we were saying. He wasn't really happy at points. I almost felt like during that whole few minutes that he and Gabby were having quite the staring contest."

The former congresswoman is still recovering from her injuries, 22 months after the shooting.

"The thing that we see that improves the most is her ability to communicate. It's also the thing she works hardest on," Kelly said. "She's generally in a very good mood and she continues work, work really hard on her recovery."

Kelly said he hopes congress does something about gun control.

"It's obviously a problem," he said. "We have gun violence that happens time and time again in this country. I think almost everybody would agree that we have a problem. And we've got very smart people, we've got committed legislators that can work on the issue and it should be worked on. Repeatedly we lost the opportunity and I hope somebody picks up that mantle and tries to do something about it."

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