It doesn’t take long to get into a heated argument about guns in America, but a recent story in the New York Times got me thinking about guns in other countries. In May in Serbia, a 13-year-old killed eight classmates at a local school, and the next day a shooter raced through a village firing indiscriminately, killing eight and wounding another 14.
Serbia is no stranger to guns. The breakup of the former Yugoslavia involved significant violence, and now the religious and ethnic strife in Serbia and neighboring Bosnia is feeding more gunfire. But the civilian killings in May have caused an outpouring of national soul searching. The president has gone as far as to say he is aiming for an “almost complete disarmament of the country.”
For a country with a long history of guns this is a very radical step. Serbia has nowhere near the number of guns as America (see below), but on a per capita basis it still ranks in the top five in the world. It is common at weddings and other celebrations to hear guns fired in the air, and in rural areas especially, it is common for households to be well armed.
Is the confiscation of guns a real possibility in Serbia? Probably not. Already there have been large demonstrations in Belgrade against the President, although the gun issue is only one reason for the opposition. Once a gun culture is entrenched in a society, it is very difficult to change the situation.
Guns Around the World
Source: World Population Review
In America there is plenty of ammunition to defend whatever side of the gun question you are on. As they say, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. On the one hand, gun control advocates are shocked by the total number of firearms in the country (see below). Gun defenders, however, point out that America is not even in the top 20 countries in the world in firearm-related deaths per 100,000 population. It’s unlikely that one side is going to convince the other on such an emotional issue as guns. It will be educational, however, for us to see how the soul searching and disarmament push works out in Serbia.
One further fact, as sad as it is: half of all gun-related deaths in America each year are due to suicide. I didn’t know this, nor do I think it is widely reported. America the wealthy is also unfortunately America the suicidally depressed.