Despite three amnesties announced by the government over the last 22 years, most of the weapons and ammunition that was taken by the Albanian population during the turmoil of 1997 remains at large.
The government has announced that all weapons need to be surrendered by 2024, although no one seems quite sure just how this will be achieved.
It is hoped that this strategy will be a success as fire weapons and military ammunition in the hands of members of the public continues to be a very real threat to public safety.
According to research from 2016, the rate of gun related deaths in Albania was 1.37 percent of all violent fatalities, against 0.83 percent in the United States. Whilst overall the number of gun-related deaths is decreasing, over 12,000 people have died at the hands of guns since 1991.
The number of weapons that has been handed in so far has been wholly insignificant, showing that a large number are still in the possession of members of the public. In 1997, a total of 839.3 million ammunition units were taken from the army depots along with 16 million explosives and 549,775 firearms. So far, only 40% of the total amount has been returned as a part of the governments attempted amnesties.
Then, earlier this year a scandal broke that a large number of weapons and ammunition had been stolen from the Pashaliman military base near Vlora. According to the official report, a number of automatic combat weapons, grenades, cartridges, combat rifles, and various other paraphernalia were lifted from the base, with many believing it was an inside job.
Albania has been implicated as the centre of a Balkan-wide weapons trafficking network with firearms entering the country from Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro.
“A part of the weapons that are smuggled in are manufactured in European countries (pistols). Another part of firearms along with explosives come from Montenegro, while traffickers from Kosovo and Macedonia are mainly responsible for smuggling converted firearms” – experts quoted by IBNA say.
It is also believed that a number of weapons stolen in 1997 are still being moved into Greece and Italy, decades later.
Whilst the government seems adamant that it will eradicate illegal weapons by 2024, how they will combat both weapons trafficking, and the stashes of ammunition and firearms that many members of the public keep exceptionally well hidden, is yet to be determined.