Anger grows in Serbia despite crackdown on gun ownership

Anger grows in Serbia despite crackdown on gun ownership

Police officers in Serbia are being deployed to all 1,800 schools in the country as pupils return to regular classes after last week's mass shooting.

More than 2,000 officers are being assigned to patrol in and around school buildings.

President Aleksandar Vučić has also demanded a 90 % reduction of firearms in circulation:

“The measures are such that tomorrow we will begin to confiscate illegal firearms," he said on Monday. "People have one month to deliver arms and ammunition without consequences. No one will ask how you got these weapons. Just hand them over. That is all."

A 13-year-old boy took his father's guns and opened fire at the school he attended in the heart of Belgrade, shooting at his peers and killing seven girls, one boy and a school guard.

A day later, a 20-year-old used an automatic weapon in a shooting rampage in two villages in central Serbia, randomly killing eight people and wounding 14.

Ministers and media blamed

The back-to-back shootings have triggered calls to encourage tolerance and rid society of widespread hate speech and a gun culture stemming from the 1990s wars.

Thousands marched in silence on Monday in Serbia's capital, Belgrade, in a major outpouring of grief and anger against the government's response to the shootings.

The protests were called by opposition parties, who demanded the resignations of government ministers and the withdrawal of licenses of the state-controlled mainstream media that promote violence and often host convicted war criminals and crime figures on their programs.

"There is a need to rebuild the system from scratch, including the education system," one protester who gave her name as Marina said. "I am a mother of two students and I want them to live in a better time than I did, in the 1990s, 2000s and today.”

There were no official estimates of the crowds that streamed into the capital on Monday evening, but observers described the gathering as the biggest in years against Vučić and his government.

One of the largest anti-government protests in recent years in Serbia also reflected how rattled the nation has been by the shootings.

In the aftermath, the ruling populists have reacted with fury by accusing the opposition of using the tragedy for political aims.

Serbia has the highest level of gun ownership in Europe, with roughly 39 out of 100 people owning firearms.