A spouse’s suicide prompts a call for action

  • Ed Mahon/Spotlight PA

We’re mixing up the format of today’s newsletter to bring you the story of Jennifer Lugar, a Montgomery County resident and an advocate pushing Pennsylvania lawmakers to pass legislation allowing courts to temporarily remove someone’s gun rights. For background, here’s a story I wrote about this legislation back in the summer. Read Lugar’s story below. –Ed Mahon, PA Post reporter

‘We need to be heard’

Ed Mahon / PA Post

Jennifer Lugar, whose husband died by suicide with a gun in 2009, listens during a panel discussion on Oct. 1, 2019, at the Chadds Ford Township Municipal Building in Delaware County, Pa. (Ed Mahon / PA Post)

CHADDS FORD TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Jennifer Lugar’s husband, Scott Spoor, owned a handgun. But she rarely thought about it. When they went on vacation in the mountains of North Carolina, Scott liked to set up milk jugs on tree stumps and shoot at them.

In January 2009, Scott attempted suicide with drugs and alcohol. “I knew he was struggling. But I had no idea that was going to happen,” Lugar said Tuesday. “It seemed out of the blue to me.”

Lugar said she hid her husband’s gun. But months later, after he got a lot of help and he seemed better, she gave it back to him.

“We went to the mountains. He did his silly shooting at milk jugs thing,” she said. “And it was all good. Everything was fine.”

Lugar said she forgot about the gun. But her husband, she said, hit another low point. On Sept. 25, 2009, he shot himself and died.

Today, Lugar is an advocate for extreme risk protection orders. They allow a court to temporarily remove someone’s gun rights if they are a risk to themselves or others. Lugar says having a judge involved would ensure due process rights are protected for defendants, but also ease the burden on families.

“It would have taken the responsibility away from a family in crisis. …You know how difficult it is to know what to do when you’re faced with something that you’re totally unprepared to face,” Lugar said. “I just — I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

I heard Lugar tell her story during a panel discussion in Delaware County on Tuesday, as state Sen. Tom Killion, R-Delaware County, continued his push to get an extreme risk protection order bill through the GOP-controlled General Assembly. Lugar has told her story before, but it’s still difficult to repeat.

“It is no fun to be sitting here crying in front of strangers,” she said Tuesday, but, “we need to be heard.”

Let me know what you think about Lugar’s story and Killion’s proposed legislation. You can drop us a line at the Listening Post.

Best of the rest

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Stacey Balulis, a tour guide at Yuengling Brewery, takes visitors though the cold caves where all the beer was once stored. (WHYY)

  • A  tax on beer sold at breweries went into effect Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Bob Batz Jr.’s story explains all the technicalities of the new law and why the effective rate is 1.5 percent, 1.75 percent or 2 percent depending on where the brewery is — and why some businesses say they’ll pass the cost onto consumers.

  • Activists are urging the University of Pittsburgh to divest itself from fossil fuel investments. “We are running out of time to prevent a global climate crisis and do not have time to wait for the bureaucratic pace of the University,” a coalition member said, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

  • WHYY’s Laura Benshoff reports that $32 million has been offered to victims of sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

  • An event later this month will highlight stories of refugees who fled Bosnian genocide and came to Cumberland County, Pa., WITF’s Rachel McDevitt reports.

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