BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbian citizens have handed over nearly 6,000 unregistered weapons in the first three days of a month-long amnesty period that is part of an anti-gun crackdown following two mass shootings last week, police said Thursday.
Police also have received nearly 300,000 rounds of ammunition and about 470 explosive devices during the same period, the Serbian Interior Ministry said on Instagram.
The effort to rid Serbia of excessive guns was launched after 17 people were killed in two mass shootings last week and 21 were wounded, many of them children. One of the shootings took place in a school for the first time ever in Serbia.
Authorities have told citizens to give up unregistered weapons by June 8 or face prison sentences. Other anti-gun measures include a ban on new gun licenses, stricter controls on gun owners and shooting ranges, and tougher punishment for the illegal possession of weapons.
The school shooter was a 13-year-old boy who used his father’s gun to open fire on his fellow students at an elementary school in central Belgrade last Wednesday, police have said. A day later, a 20-year-old man opened fire with an automatic weapon in a rural area south of the capital city.
Serbia is estimated to be among the top countries in Europe when it comes to gun possession per capita, which are partly left over from the wars in the 1990s. On Wednesday, police arrested the father of the suspected village shooter for illegal possession of weapons.
The two shootings have sparked calls for changes and more tolerance in Serbia’s society. Thousands have marched in opposition-led protests in Belgrade and other towns, demanding resignations of populist government ministers as well as a ban on television stations that air violent content and host war criminals. More protests are planned on Friday.
Serbia’s populist president, Aleksandar Vucic, has accused opposition parties of using the tragedy for political ends. He has announced plans for an own rally in late May.
Vucic, a former ultranationalist who now says he wants to take Serbia into the European Union, has faced accusations of promoting hate speech against opponents, curbing free speech with a tight grip over mainstream media and taking control of all state institutions. He has denied this.