Serbia continues to deal with the fallout of two deadly shooting sprees within two days last week, with Serbian Minister of Education Branko Ruzic announcing his resignation in the wake of the killings of 17 and wounding of 21.
Calls for a gun buy-back program or increased gun control to limit gun sales to hunters were rampant, as were continued vigils and protests against an type of almost unprecedented violence that has shocked the nation.
In truth, Serbia is no stranger to gun violence, having fought both during the horrific war in Yugoslavia, as well as the war in Kosovo, with the conflicts followed by vicious fighting between organized crime gangs that from time to time resurfaces to this day.
Yet random violence against school children or against unwary pedestrians, as was the case during the second shooting, have only been preceded by a 2013 mass shooting during which a troubled veteran of the war in Yugoslavia killed 13.
And while that tragedy was also random, for most it is something perhaps linked to an even more distant war and a far cry from last week’s Vladislav Ribnikar primary school massacre, during which as 13-year-old, Kosta K., attempted to follow a premeditated plan to kill a list of students a the school. That this was followed by the murderous drive by of a 20-year-old, U.B., who was armed with an automatic weapon and pistol, left the local populace stunned.
“This has caught everyone off guard,” said a Belgrade resident who asked to remain anonymous, as the woman knows well a family who lost a loved one during the primary school killings. “In Serbia there are people who still suffer from the wars, but this (the elementary school perpetrator) was a child. We thought this was something that only happens in the United States.
“In fact, this second person—this was also a child,” she said. “This was a 20-year-old boy with a child’s logic and emotions. It leaves you [with a loss for words].”
One person who was not at a loss for words was Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who following the second shooting announced that he had submitted a proposal to the government lead by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic to reinstate the death penalty. This was quickly rejected and considered by some to be only “for show,” as it would sharply depart from EU law at a time when Serbia remains ostensibly committed to the EU path.
Still Vucic vowed tougher gun control and a plan to hire 1,500 police officers, which would also include placing a police officer in every school in Belgrade, if not the country.
The latter will meet little resistance, but gun control laws in a country that already has very strict laws on the books may draw a collective shrug. In fact, Serbia is awash with guns and ranks among the top gun-ownership nations in the world.
“Possibly a gun buy-back is the answer,” said the previously cited Belgrade resident. “I don’t think anyone really knows what to do, but at least it’s a start.”
Photo by Voice of America, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.