Was Serbia's firearm amnesty a success?

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"We each person firearms, but nary 1 volition openly admit it," said Ivan M* (38) from Novi Sad. As if to exemplify this claim, Ivan's household remains tight-lipped astir precisely what firearms it has.

Ivona R.* (40) from Novi Sad, connected the different hand, acknowledges that she inherited a weapon from her precocious father, portion Goran P.* (59) from a tiny municipality successful the state of Vojvodina makes nary bones astir the information that helium has been a firearm proprietor for astir of his life.

All those who spoke to DW astir firearm ownership successful Serbia pb quiescent lives and person nary imminent information concerns. This is emblematic successful Serbia, wherever firearm possession often stems from contented alternatively than genuine information threats.

A crying antheral   is comforted by a pistillate   arsenic  helium  looks astatine  tributes to the victims of a schoolhouse  wide    shooting, Belgrade, Serbia, May 4, 2023Serbia was shaken by 2 wide shootings successful 2 days successful May past yearImage: Zorana Jevtic/REUTERS

Security adept Branislava Kostic explains: "Assessments bespeak that civilians present are often amended equipped than the police. Many ain guns for accepted reasons, believing that the caput of the household should person one. This taste norm is evident astatine events similar weddings and celebrations."

High level of civilian firearm ownership

This taste affinity with firearms is corroborated by the Swiss Small Arms Survey probe project, which ranked Serbia 3rd successful the satellite for civilian firearm ownership in 2017, trailing lone Yemen and the USA. The survey estimates determination are a staggering 39.1 airy weapons per 100 inhabitants successful the country.

However, two wide shootings that claimed 17 lives and injured 21 connected May 3 and 4 past twelvemonth prompted a little shift successful attitudes.

Firearm amnesty launched successful 2023

The authorities responded by launching a broad disarmament campaign. A two-month amnesty encouraged citizens to surrender unregistered firearms without the menace of repercussions. It resulted successful the postulation of implicit 80,000 firearms, implicit 4 million rounds of ammunition and implicit 26,000 explosive devices. The authorities hailed it arsenic a resounding success.

Confiscated weapons are displayed successful  Smederevo, Serbia, May 14, 2023Serbia has the highest level of weapon ownership successful Europe, with astir 39 retired of 100 radical owning firearms, according to the Small Arms Survey probe groupImage: OLIVER BUNIC/AFP/Getty Images

"What was not bully was the mode those weapons were surrendered, due to the fact that we person accusation that radical carried bombs connected nationalist transport," said Marina Kostic Sulejic of the Professional Association of the Security Sector. She highlights the request for safer procedures and the nonrecreational handling of surrendered weapons.

Surrendered weapons went missing

Moreover, inadequate constabulary protocols led to lapses successful firearm retention and record-keeping. Branislava Kostic cites instances wherever mishandling and theft of surrendered firearms occurred owed to a deficiency of oversight.

One illustration is the lawsuit of a constabulary serviceman from the metropolis of Nis successful confederate Serbia who stole 272 pistols that had been handed successful astatine the constabulary presumption during the amnesty. Local media initially reported that 63 pistols had gone missing. However, mediocre record-keeping meant that it took a agelong clip to find precisely however galore pistols had been stolen.

A ample  assemblage  of radical   attends a 'Serbia against violence' protestation  aft  2  wide    shootings successful  aboriginal  May 2023, Belgrade, Serbia, May 8, 2023In the weeks that followed the wide shootings, thousands took to the streets to protestation unit successful SerbiaImage: Zorana Jevtic/REUTERS

Marina Kostic Sulejic believes that specified cases were made imaginable by the velocity with which the amnesty was launched and a deficiency of wide protocols regarding the handling of the collected weapons. As a result, determination person been calls for the Interior Ministry to rectify this oversight.

"The deficiency of transparency regarding the destiny of the surrendered weapons raises concerns," she said. "Without knowing whether the weapons were destroyed, stored oregon perchance sold and dispersed elsewhere, we are near successful the acheronian astir what happened to specified a important quantity of firearms."

'I'll conscionable bargain different 1 illegally'

The radical who spoke to DW decided not to surrender their firearms to the police. They were not alone. For this reason, Serbia's instrumentality enforcement authorities conducted door-to-door checks to reappraisal firearm possession licenses.

Goran P.* said that his acquisition with the constabulary was remarkably positive: "The officers were courteous and provided wide explanations. It transpired that I would request to wage astir €200 to support my firearm," helium said. "That's erstwhile I decided to surrender it to them. I'll conscionable bargain different 1 illegally. What quality does it make?"

Students holding placards and a ample  banner that reads 'Students against volence', Belgrade, Serbia, June 2024Students besides came retired successful ample numbers to protestation unit successful Serbian nine and request the resignation of the Serbian President Aleksandar VucicImage: Vesan Lalic/AA/picture confederation

The experts DW consulted expressed small astonishment astatine this mindset. According to Branislava Kostic, it's estimated that determination could person been up to 80,000 specified cases. Serbs are seemingly steadfast successful their tendency to clasp firearms.

Increase successful amerciable arms ownership?

In airy of each this, the government's assertion to person reduced the fig of registered firearms from 766,665 instantly aft the shootings to 575,695 whitethorn beryllium a driblet successful the ocean. Indeed, everything suggests that amerciable arms ownership is presently connected the rise.

"We are besides seeing an accrued fig of weapons connected the streets, which means that determination are much connected the achromatic market," says Kostic Sulejic. "The question is wherever they are coming from. It is imaginable that it's a question of misuse of the weapons that were surrendered. Secondly, a batch of weapons are going to Ukraine, albeit by antithetic routes and with antithetic weapons. So, we don't know. It whitethorn beryllium that immoderate of these weapons are returned to the achromatic market."

The normalization of unit successful Serbian society

In short, the effectiveness of the government's measures remains questionable. According to probe conducted by the Belgrade Center for Security Policy, the authorities is reluctant to tighten firearm regulations. Proposed reforms, specified arsenic strict eligibility criteria and wellness evaluations, stay unimplemented owed to ineligible constraints.

Serbs protestation amerciable weapons possession

Furthermore, determination are fewer statistic connected societal violence. Despite the disarmament drive, incidents of unit persist, underscoring deep-rooted societal issues. Branislava Kostic emphasizes the normalization of unit successful Serbian society, urging holistic solutions that spell beyond firearm regulation.

"People are already utilized to the information that whoever has powerfulness besides has the quality to interruption each your rights," says Branislava Kostic. "This is 1 of the characteristics of a nine of violence, and according to galore criteria, we are decidedly becoming a nine of violence. One of these criteria is that, implicit time, radical judge unit arsenic being normal."

Edited by: Aingeal Flanagan

* The afloat names of the radical who spoke to DW are known to the author. They agreed to talk connected the information that their afloat names not beryllium published.

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