Duluth’s Gun Violence: DPD Chief Says High Numbers For 2022 Are Possible

DULUTH, Minn. — In the first half of 2022, Duluth has seen 22 incidents involving guns where police were called out, and the Duluth police chief is concerned with how much higher the numbers could get if the trajectory continues.

This figure and the rest of the statistics for this story, are not including suicides.

“When we have legal guns that often get in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, bad things happen,” Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said. “They’re either used in violent crimes, they can be used for self-harm, they can be discharged accidentally, I mean we see a number of different ways where we’ve had tragedies happen.”

Six of 2022’s gun incidents were accidental discharges, and sixteen were incidents that were part of murders, drive-by shootings, fights, reckless discharges, domestic violence, and more.

The pandemic did not help matters for gun violence and other crimes.

“The historical crime numbers, there was a lot more violence in the 90s,” Tusken emphasized. “So when I was first a cop in the 90s, lots of issues across the entire United States. The United States in general has seen a downturn of violent crime, up until 2020. So now you start to see that trajectory to come up again. Certainly with our gun incidents…2020 was our worst year, we’re basically on that same trajectory right now.”

In 2019, which was pre-pandemic, there were 25 gun incidents the DPD responded to, including one homicide.

In 2020, Duluth saw 42 incidents involving guns, but no deaths.

In 2021, that number dropped to 26 incidents, and saw one death.

In 2022, Duluth has seen 22 incidents involving guns, and five deaths. The victims were the four members of the Barry family killed by a relative in April, and a 17-year-old killed by a former friend in July.

Chief Tusken says when it comes to getting guns out of the wrong hands, such as a felon or someone under the age of 18, tips from the community, which can be submitted anonymously, are a huge help.

“That is very important for us to do meaningful interventions when we have really good actionable intelligence that we can work on,” he said.

City councilor Mike Mayou, who represents the district where the most recent fatal shooting occurred, says fighting illegal gun use and violence can be hard to do on a local level.

“Our country has a problem and one community, we can take really important steps forward trying to incrementally change this, but we need our federal leaders and our state leaders to come along with us because like I said it’s an epidemic and we can take steps in Duluth to reduce incidents like this from happening, but once again it would take all the communities around us to be a part of this effort as well,” Mayou said.

As to what can be done right now, Mayou says looking to add more intervention programs is key.

“I think overall we are going to have to have a conversation as a council about what kind of programs we can enact, and whether it’s neighborhood-specific and looking at neighborhoods where we’ve had especially some of these gun violence incidents, of what can we do to bring folks together and have this community conversation about how we can make our communities safer and also recognize¬† those warning signs that come along with these violence incidents before they happen,” he said.

Chief Tusken agrees, hoping to see the gun violence numbers drop for the second half of the year.

“Many times again, society looks at police and says how are you going to solve this, what police often do is we look to our partners in collaboration and say what more can all of us do,” Tusken said. “2020 was kind of an anomaly for us. Now we’re going to see what we can do to do meaningful interventions so that the numbers don’t reach that point again this year.”


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