Days after two mass shootings left 17 people dead in Serbia, the European country’s Interior Ministry urged citizens Sunday to turn in all unregistered weapons or run the risk of a prison sentence.
Individuals who hand over illegally owned guns, grenades, ammunition and other weaponry between Monday and June 8 will not face any charges, the ministry said in a statement. Those who ignore the order will face prosecution and if convicted, potentially years behind bars, government officials have warned.
Weekend funerals were held for the victims of the shootings at a Belgrade school Wednesday and in a rural area south of the capital city Thursday night. The violence, which also wounded 21 people, has stunned and anguished the Balkan nation.
While Serbia is awash with weapons and tops the European list of registered arms per capita, it is no stranger to crisis situations following the wars of the 1990s that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia.
The most recent previous mass shooting was in 2013, when a war veteran killed 13 people. The assailant in the country’s first mass school shooting was a 13-year-old boy who opened fire on his fellow students, killing seven girls, a boy and a school guard.
The next day, a 20-year-old man fired randomly in two villages in central Serbia, killing eight people. Both he and the boy in the primary school attack were apprehended.
While the country struggles to come to terms with what happened, authorities promised a gun crackdown and said they would boost security in schools and all over the state.
“We invite all citizens who possess illegal weapons to respond to this call, to go to the nearest police station and hand in weapons for which they do not have proper documents,” police official Jelena Lakicevic said.
The voluntary surrender applies to all firearms, explosive devices, weapon parts and ammunition that people keep illegally in their homes, Lakicevic said.
Serbia has refused to fully face its role in the wars of the 1990s, war criminals are largely regarded as heroes and minority groups routinely face harassment and sometimes physical violence.