Serbia Shows Scores of Guns Turned In After Mass Shootings

President asks, 'What does anyone need an automatic weapon for?'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 14, 2023 11:21 AM CDT
Serbia Shows Scores of Guns Turned In After Mass Shootings
Weapons collected as part of an amnesty are displayed by the government in a warehouse near Smederevo, Serbia, on Sunday.   (Serbian Presidential Press Service via AP)

Authorities in Serbia on Sunday displayed stacks of guns and cartons of hand grenades from the thousands of weapons, including anti-tank rocket launchers, that they said people handed over since back-to-back mass shootings stunned the Balkan nation. The government declared a one-month amnesty period for citizens to surrender unregistered weapons as part of a crackdown following the two shootings in two days this month that left 17 people dead, many of them children. Populist President Aleksandar Vucic, whose government has faced pressure in the wake of the separate shootings at a Belgrade school and in two villages, accompanied top police officials to view the assortment of arms arrayed near the town of Smederevo, 30 miles south of the capital, the AP reports.

Officials said residents had turned over about 13,500 items since the amnesty opened on May 8. Photos showed lines of rifles, automatic weapons, and pistols stacked neatly on the floor in a warehouse along with wooden boxes filled with hand grenades. Serbia has tens of thousands of weapons brought in from the battlefields of the 1990s wars in the Balkans. Similar weapons amnesties were held in the past with limited success. Vucic said that approximately half of the arms collected since last week had been held illegally, while the other half were registered weapons that citizens nonetheless decided to part with. The relinquished weapons will go to Serbian arms and ammunition factories for potential use by the country's armed forces, the president said.

Other measures announced by Vucic include stricter control of shooting ranges, per the AP. Police officials said that gun owners must have a coded safe in which to store their registered weapons and that any guns not kept properly would be confiscated. Serbia is estimated to be among the top countries in Europe in registered weapons per capita, and many more are held illegally. Authorities have said that people caught with illegal weapons once the amnesty period ends could face prison sentences of up to 15 years if they are convicted. "After June 8, the state will respond with repressive measures, and punishments will be very strict," Vucic said. "What does anyone need an automatic weapon for? Or all these guns?"

(More Serbia stories.)

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