Serbia’s president has pledged to tighten gun control rules after two mass shootings at schools this week, which is unprecedented despite large numbers of weapons remaining in civilian hands after the wars of the 1990s.
Aleksandar Vučić announced a moratorium on all gun permits, a “practical disarmament” of Serbia and more frequent medical and psychological checks of gun owners. In a televised address on Friday, he announced plans to expand the police force and send armed officers to protect every school.
Serbs were left shocked when a 13-year-old boy shot and killed eight pupils and a security guard at a Belgrade school on Wednesday, injuring several other people before turning himself in. The boy, who had just joined the school, allegedly used his father’s two handguns and had a list of people he wanted to kill.
After the first shooting, the government introduced a two-year ban on the issuing of new gun permits, a revision of existing permits and checks on how gun owners store their arms.
Just as Serbia began a three-day period of mourning, a second shooting rocked the nation on Thursday, when a 21-year-old was involved in an altercation in a schoolyard in Dubona, 30 miles south of Belgrade, left and returned with two weapons including an assault rifle, local media reported. He opened fire and killed eight people, including an off-duty police officer, and injured a dozen more before fleeing.
The suspect was apprehended on Friday about 50 miles south of the scene after a manhunt involving hundreds of police, anti-terror units and helicopters.
Vučić called Thursday’s attack a terrorist act and added: “The villain will never see the light of day again, he will never get out of prison.”
Like in other western Balkan nations, guns are ubiquitous in Serbia and often used to shoot in the air in celebration at weddings or birthdays, especially in rural areas. Shooting ranges are also popular.
But the ease with which the two suspected shooters obtained lethal arms has raised concerns about gun control in Serbia.
“In both cases, kids had easy access to weapons, and they were very well trained,” Marina Kostić, general secretary of the Professional Association of the Security Sector, told N1 television.
“These weapons were not found on the street or the black market,” she said. .”