News 12 Jun 12

Macedonia Full of Firearms, NGO Says

One in four Macedonian families keeps legal firearm at home and the number of illegal weapons in the country of 2,1 million people amounts to half a million, claims a local NGO.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Photo by: Gliu

The NGO Civil, which is on the helm of a nationwide campaign for the control of privately-held weapons, says the country urgently needs another disarmament campaign, because previous attempts coordinated by the police have largely backfired.

Civil estimates that some 110,000 to 170,000 people in the country hold about 500,000 illegal weapons.

The NGO has calculated that between 2004 and 2010, the authorities managed to collect and destroy some 23,000 firearms, which they say is not enough.

“We appeal for harsher penalties [for holding illegal weapons]… as well as for actions to strengthen trust in the institutions and public awareness”, Xhabir Derala, the head of Civil, said in Skopje.

Macedonia carried out its first disarmament drive in the aftermath of the 2001 armed conflict between Albanian insurgents and the security forces.

The operation was carried out by NATO forces and was designed to ensure that the insurgents handed over their weapons before being pardoned and reintegrated into society. In only 45 days, NATO collected some 7,500 items of weaponry.

Although the operation was seen as successful, experts warned that huge arsenals still remained unregistered across Macedonia.

In 2010 amendments to the law gave gun-owners a year to hand over illegal weapons or ask for their legalization.

After this deadline expired in mid-2011, the police admitted that the campaign was unsuccessful and that the number of collected items did not surpass 100.

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