Serbian President Touts Gun Control Plan, Vows to

In the wake of two deadly shootings within two days, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has ordered his government to toughen the Balkan country’s already strict gun control measures, with a goal of reducing private gun ownership by 90 percent.

In a Thursday address to the nation still mourning the victims, Vučić said he has instructed the Ministry of Internal Affairs to urgently prepare amendments to the law on weapons and ammunition, which would tighten the rules for keeping and carrying firearms. For gun owners who fail to comply with those stricter rules, they will have to turn over their weapons through a mandatory weapon program.

The country’s 400,000 gun owners will have to undergo an audit, after which no more than 30,000 to 40,000 gun permits will be left, Vučić said.

“We will carry out almost complete disarmament of Serbia,” said the president, reported state-owned broadcaster RTS.

Under the proposed changes to Serbia’s gun laws, the remaining legal gun owners—including people having licensed hunting weapons—will have to go through medical, psychiatric, and psychological checks, as well as a mandatory test for psychoactive substances. There will be six-month and one-year checks, according to RTS.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs will also consider whether there is a need for stricter control of hunting weapons.

“The fewer barrels there are, the less danger there will be for our children,” Vučić said.

In addition to gun control measures, the president announced a plan to establish a permanent police presence in every Serbian school. In the next six months, the government will hire 1,200 more police officers to boost school security.

“We have 331 schools in Belgrade. We will have 331 police officers in them, and there will be more,” he told the country.

The announcement comes after a 21-year-old man in a moving car opened fire on passers-by near Mladenovac, a town south of Belgrade. The attacker killed at least eight people and injured 14 before he was subdued by police following a long chase. RTS reported the suspect began his shooting spree after an argument with a police officer late on May 4 in the courtyard of a local school.

A day earlier, a 13-year-old boy opened fire at fellow students at a school in central Belgrade, killing eight schoolchildren and a security guard. Six children and a teacher were also hospitalized. Police said the attack had been planned for months.

Shootings like this are rare in Serbia, despite the country ranking first in Europe in terms of gun ownership rate largely owing to the legacy of the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s. The deadliest shooting in the 21st century took place in 2013, when a 60-year-old war veteran killed 13 people, including his son, before ending his own life.

As a country with a population of 6.8 million, there are an average of 39.1 guns for every 100 people in Serbia, according to a 2018 study by the Swiss organization Small Arms Survey. That makes Serbia the third most armed country in the world, tying with its former Yugoslav neighbor Montenegro (39.1) and trailing behind Yemen (52.8) and the United States (120.5).

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