Police on Monday deployed in schools throughout Serbia in an effort to restore a shaken sense of security following two mass shootings last week — including one in a primary school — that left 17 people dead and 21 wounded, many of them children.
The recent shootings that occurred last Wednesday in Belgrade and a day later in a rural area south of the capital have deeply shocked the nation. As a result of these tragic events, there have been increasing calls for promoting tolerance and eradicating hate speech and gun culture, which have been associated with the wars of the 1990s.
The opposition parties cordially invited citizens to join a peaceful march in central Belgrade on Monday to raise awareness against violence. They respectfully requested the government ministers to consider resignations and the mainstream media to make changes when it comes to hosting convicted war criminals and crime figures on their airwaves.
The resignation of Education Minister Branko Ruzic was tendered on Wednesday, and an initiative to curb gun issues was launched by the authorities. However, the opposition has stated that this action may have been more effective if taken earlier.
The tragic shootings resulted in a great deal of sadness and mourning.
Many people expressed their condolences by lighting candles and leaving heartfelt messages, toys, and flowers to honour those who lost their lives. On Monday, a respectful policewoman stood quietly at the entrance of Vladislav Ribnikar school, where students are expected to gradually return on Wednesday. On Monday, the police conducted patrols at other schools in Serbia while teams of experts, supported by UNICEF, provided guidance and assistance to children, parents, and teachers.
Starting on Monday, individuals who possess unlicensed guns may turn them in at police stations without fear of punishment. In addition, there are several new gun-control measures being implemented, such as a suspension of new licenses, stricter regulations on current licenses, and more stringent rules for gun possession.
These measures may result in some current gun owners losing their weapons. According to independent international surveys, Serbia is among the leading countries in Europe for gun ownership per capita. It should be noted that gun control laws have been relatively lax since the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s, during which many individuals brought back firearms from the battlefields. According to President Vucic, it appears that roughly 400,000 gun owners are registered in Serbia, although there may be a larger number of individuals who possess guns without proper authorization. It may be suggested that Serbia has not fully acknowledged its involvement in the conflict with other ethnic groups of the former Yugoslavia. It has been observed that right-wing and nationalist views are gaining popularity, and some individuals who were convicted of war crimes are still admired and hold public positions.