Can Serbia rid itself of guns?

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

STORY: These are firearms that were voluntarily handed over by Serbians after two mass shootings in May.

So far officials say more than 26,000 firearms and 1.3 million rounds of ammunition have been surrendered.

And President Aleksandar Vucic has pledged to “practically disarm" his country.

But can Serbia really rid itself of guns?

Licensed gun owner Narcis Selimic bought his pistol in the 1990s for personal protection.

He says he's giving it up to set an example.

"Despite my belief that it is the person using a gun—and most definitely not me—who kills, I decided to do something, anything, in response to the mass shooting that occurred at the school. I came up with the idea to set an example in my close circle of friends, and I also have an 11-year-old son at home."

The Serbian government has launched new rules in the wake of the shootings.

They include halting new gun permits, tightening rules for existing owners, and offering a month-long amnesty for illegal weapons.

But political opponents - who have previously called for greater gun control - say the measures seem populist...

And that they fail to address the underlying issue of illegal weapons and societal violence.

Military grade weapons flooded into Serbia during the wars that tore apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s, often ending up in private hands.

Authorities have struggled to assess the current scale of the problem.

Aleksandar Zivotic is a history professor at Belgrade University.

"Today we do not know when a weapon was returned, or whether someone kept it in the meantime. Then, when you have such a large amount of illegal weapons, you never know whether it remained in the possession of those who brought it or whether it was subsequently given to someone or resold. This now opens the issue of the black market in weapons and ammunition, which is also one of the very important issues."

With about four guns per 10 residents, Serbia has the highest estimated number of civilian firearms in Europe.

One analyst told Reuters it would take years for the state to disarm its citizens.

Some experts are advocating for a regional approach given the high number of weapons found in neighboring countries.