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Thousands of unregistered weapons are being turned in during Serbia's gun amnesty

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Two gun massacres that together killed 17 people and injured 21 earlier this month shocked and then changed Serbia. Tens of thousands joined demonstrations. They're demanding the removal of government figures and changes at media outlets that these protesters say promote violence. And there's been a government response, an amnesty program that's led to the surrender of more than 13,000 firearms and other weapons, according to Serbian officials. That includes rocket launchers, ammunition and other explosives. We've reached journalist Igor Bozic, news director for TV N1 in Belgrade, to talk about this. Welcome to the program.

IGOR BOZIC: Thank you for having me.

FADEL: So first, if you could explain this amnesty program. How does it work?

BOZIC: Actually, it works like, the government issue an open invitation to anyone who has got illegal weapon to give to the nearest police station. So no - they give one kind of deadline, it is 8 of June. So anyone who bring the weapon and give it to the police station, he can do that anonymously. That means that they will not pick up any data. They will not press any charges against those people. So it actually goes well on this situation because it's quite unusual, like, a shooting that we never had in Serbia.

FADEL: Right.

BOZIC: And people try to use that opportunity to take - to get rid of the guns they've got in their homes. So it's unbelievable what we saw yesterday in a place called Duvaniste. And we can see even the rocket launchers that they are giving to the police.

FADEL: Now, the government has been under pressure to act since the two mass shootings. Serbia's education minister resigned a little over a week ago. There are calls for removal of the interior secretary. Is this government in trouble?

BOZIC: I think it is because so many people on the street that we saw last Friday we - I think that we didn't see since the Milosevic crackdown. So it actually shows that people are very, very nervous about this. They are angry. And they want a reasonable response. So...

FADEL: Now - sorry.

BOZIC: Yeah. Vucic wants to respond with these kind of measures, like disarming, like changing and making more policemen in the school than he previously had. But people are not satisfied. They want to see a kind of resignation, from a moral reason at least, from the security agency director and the interior minister. And they are not seeing it. So Vucic is now announcing elections and because he wants to stay on the power. And he thinks that by dismissing this government, maybe he can win again and to put things in the normal like it was before this tragedy.

FADEL: Just really quickly, why is gun ownership so high in Serbia? And will this culture change after these two massacres?

BOZIC: It's very hard to answer on that. But gun culture, I think it was in the history that anyone - I mean, if you look at the data, unofficial data, it is more than 1.5 million illegal weapons...

FADEL: I'm sorry. We'll have to leave it there. We're running out of time. Journalist Igor Bozic, news director for TV N1 in Belgrade. Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.