Gun Control. Serbia Just Did It. Why Can’t We?


New gun laws in Serbia were created after a number of mass shootings.


Mariusz Blach/AdobeStock


“You need more compassion, more listening to each other, more empathy and more understanding of different views of the lives of the leaders.”

Doric Veselinovic, Serbian lawmaker

Serbia has had the third highest per capita rate of gun ownership known in the world, following the United States and Yemen. However, on May 3, in a rare mass shooting, a 13-year-old killed 9 at an elementary school and the day after, 8 died in another mass shooting. On May 5th—which I will take as an unintended birthday present—Serbia’s President announced a series of gun-control measure with a goal of disarmament.

Despite being a country of divisiveness politically, religiously, and about gender identity, the population swiftly joined mass protests demanding action on guns. During the period May 8 to June 8, citizens could hand in unregistered guns, and they brought in over 70,000 firearms. Ownership had been high ever since the Yugoslavian conflicts.

Australia, Britain, Brazil, and Argentina have also had successful amnesty programs. We have had platitudes, record numbers of mass shootings, and the successful opposition of the gun lobby. Serbia does not have such a gun lobby.

The new legislation in Serbia includes a prison sentence for unregistered ownership, no guns to be bought for 2 years, and background checks.

But what really got my attention is that the new laws include the necessity of psychological evaluation for gun ownership! Maybe having to see a psychiatrist would even scare some away from ownership.

Now, psychiatry in Serbia and many other countries, is a field that has conveyed devotion to compassion, empathy, listening, and understanding. Those qualities are of potential use of the greater society, as Serbia has concluded. When will we do the same?

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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