The wars from 1991 to 1999 as Yugoslavia broke up took up to 200,000 lives, turned millions into refugees and left much of the region’s people traumatized and heavily armed. It was the bloodiest conflict in Europe since World War II.
The millions of weapons that remained in possession of civilians after the fighting have caused fatalities every week, as traumatized former soldiers either shoot family members or commit suicide or children find guns at home and die while playing with them.
All of the seven new countries that emerged have banned civilians from owning weapons with varying degrees of success.
In contrast, the U.S. has 88.8 weapons per 100 people and leads the list worldwide, with Yemen second at 54.8 arms per 100 people. England and Wales are low down on the list with 6.2 weapons per 100 people.Serbia has about three million weapons owned by civilians, according to the Small Arms Survey, a nongovernmental organization from Switzerland. It says Serbia has the fifth-highest number of weapons per capita in the world, with some 38 firearms for every 100 people.
Serbian gun laws were tightened several years ago when authorities proposed an amnesty for all those with illegal weapons. Heavy weapons like mortar launchers that were handed over were impounded, but small arms were allowed, with owners required to get a license and pay taxes on them.
In recent years there have been several incidents where hand grenades were activated during minor arguments, including one last year when four people were killed when they were refused entry into a bar in northern Serbia.
On Tuesday, police said a 60-year-old veteran gunned down 13 people in a house-to-house rampage in a Serbian village. The motive for that was unknown.