#WearOrange to Do Something About America's Gun Violence Crisis | Opinion

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 crippling 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, just days before our younger daughter’s eighth birthday.

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 September 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 access to a gun during a period of crisis is often the difference between life and death—approximately 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. This is mainly because guns are more lethal than any other method of self-harm.

Scott left behind two beautiful daughters, who were seven 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.

One of the more immediate ways you can support survivors of gun violence such as myself and promote gun safety is by participating in "Wear Orange" this weekend.

To honor the 96 Americans who are shot and killed every day and the hundreds more who are wounded, the Wear Orange campaign invites everyone who agrees we can do more to save American lives from gun violence to do one simple thing: #WearOrange—a color that symbolizes the value of human life—on June 1, 2018, National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and to attend local Wear Orange events on June 2nd and June 3rd.

Why Orange? Wear Orange and National Gun Violence Awareness Day were inspired by Project Orange Tree, an awareness campaign started by Nza-Ari Khepra and her friends to commemorate the life of their murdered friend, Hadiya Pendleton, and other victims of everyday gun violence.

Orange is the color that Hadiya Pendleton’s friends wore in her honor after she was shot and killed in Chicago at the age of 15—just one week after performing at President Obama’s second inaugural parade in 2013. The color orange has a long and proud history in the gun violence prevention movement, aside from being the color worn by Hadiya’s loved ones, orange is also the color hunters wear, something I witnessed firsthand in my rural Pennsylvania community.

Coalition partners, artists, cultural influencers, city officials, mayors, law enforcement, faith leaders, survivors, teachers, moms and other advocates in cities all over the country from Marfa, Texas, to Philadelphia to Chicago, are coming together around the shared belief that we can create a future free from gun violence.

I will continue to fight for this future 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 by gun suicide in Lutz, Florida, on September 25, 2009. Jennifer was elected to Borough Council in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, in November 2017.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​

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