My husband Scott was incredibly intelligent and always quick to crack a joke. He loved to travel and was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed hiking and fishing. He was a loving father to his two daughters.
The year before he died, Scott began to struggle with anxiety and depression. He attempted suicide twice with alcohol and pills. Both times he was hospitalized, but after the second attempt, he started to act like his old self, and I thought we were out of danger.
Scott took his life with a gun in 2009.
He kept a handgun for protection. I never felt comfortable having a gun in our house, especially with our two children present, but he insisted it was necessary to protect our family. He also occasionally went target shooting in the woods. After his first suicide attempt, I took the gun and locked it away. But after he recovered from the second attempt, he convinced me to give him back the gun, claiming it would help him feel “normal” again. So I did and never gave it much thought after that. I didn’t even know where he kept it.
On Sept. 25, 2009, I was having lunch with a friend when the phone rang. Scott told me he was going to kill himself and then he hung up. I got home as quickly as I could and ran into the house.
Unable to find him in the neighborhood, I called the police. They had me call Scott and were able to trace the signal and locate him. The officers surrounded his car and tried to talk to him, but in that moment, he pulled the trigger and ended his life.
Unlike Scott’s first two attempts, this one was completed because he had access to a gun. I’ve learned that suicide attempts with a gun are almost always fatal — an estimated 90 percent of people who attempt suicide with a gun will die. In contrast, more than 90 percent of those who attempt suicide by other means will live and are unlikely to attempt suicide again.
Scott left behind two beautiful daughters, who were 7 and 13 years old at the time of his death. For the past eight years, I have worked to make our family whole and to bring some joy and normalcy to my daughters’ lives. The pain never goes away, and I constantly worry about how this will affect them in the long term.
Until a couple of years ago, I never considered myself a survivor of gun violence. But over the years, I started to learn more about the relationship between mental health issues and our lax gun laws — and how it leaves so many families like mine grieving a loved one who might be alive if it weren’t for easy access to a gun.
I’ve also found a way to channel my heartbreak into action. I use my voice to educate others about the dangers of easy access to firearms and the importance of properly securing firearms. If I can prevent one other life from being taken by gun violence, then something positive has come from my heartbreak.
Recently, I traveled to Washington, D.C., with other gun violence survivors as part of the Everytown Survivor Fellowship Program. We had the opportunity to meet with each other and members of Congress to share our stories and ask them to put the safety of our families and communities over the interests of the gun lobby. It’s imperative that the leaders we send to Washington to represent us reject dangerous legislation such as “concealed carry reciprocity,” which would force Pennsylvania and other states to accept the concealed carry standards of every other state, even those with weak standards that allow people with dangerous histories to concealed carry or worse yet, those with no standards at all.
Instead, they should focus on legislation that will help save lives, not put more Americans in danger.
Our leaders have had long enough to take action. I will continue to fight so that other children don’t have their fathers taken by gun violence. I cannot stand by and let this become the reality for other families. Too many lives are at stake.
Jennifer Lugar is a member of the Everytown Survivor Network whose husband, Scott Spoor, died of gun suicide in Lutz, Fla., on Sept. 25, 2009. Lugar was elected to Jenkintown Borough Council in November 2017.