Serbs have until June 8 to hand up all of their unregistered guns In an effort by the government to disarm society in the wake of back-to-back horrific shootings.
Early in May, two shootings in quick succession rocked the nation of the Balkans. These kind of mass shootings seen so frequently in the United States rarely, if ever, occur, in Serbia.
On May 3, nine people, including eight children, were murdered at an elementary school in Belgrade. A 13-year-old boy carrying his father’s firearm carried out the act. One day later, a 20-year-old went on the rampage through a town south of Belgrade, killing eight people and injuring 14.
In response to the twin tragedies, President Aleksandar Vucic set out on a mission to cleanse Serbia of firearms. Unlike most European countries, Serbia has many illegal guns throughout its society. Serbia has been awash in guns and the proliferation of firearms is mostly a legacy of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Serbia places third with Montenegro in gun ownership in the world, behind the United States and Yemen.
According to a 2018 Small Arms Survey report, there are 39 weapons for every 100 people living in Serbia, and an estimated 2.7 million firearms, including 1.5 million unregistered firearms, are in civilian hands.
Vucic ordered that all residents surrender their unregistered firearms and ammo to law enforcement by June 8 in what was likely the broadest government move yet. Anyone who does not surrender their weapons within the month-long amnesty period will be subject to severe punishments, including possibly serving time in prison.
While disarming the populace is generally a beneficial action, many Serbs blame Vucic for the broader culture of inciting violence in the media.
Day-to-day life in Serbia has nearly come to a halt as the nation remains in mourning and grapples with a new and unforeseen threat. Thousands of people took to the streets over several days to protest the outbreak of violence and demand the government take action.
Many Serbs protesting in the streets believe it is more necessary to address the root causes of violence rather than taking measures such as stricter gun laws. Despite the general popularity of surrendering illegal weapons, it is still unclear if the government mandate will yield tangible results.