CHRISTCHURCH   -   Swiss voters are casting ballots in a referendum to decide whether to enact new restrictions on guns and line up with other countries in the European visa-free travel zone who have tightened rules following extremist attacks.

The proposal could require regular training in the use of firearms, special waivers for possession of some semi-automatic weapons and serial-numbering of major parts of some guns to help track them.

Supporters, including the Swiss parliament and executive branch, say measures similar to those adopted by the EU after deadly extremist attacks in France are needed to ensure strong police cooperation and economic ties with Switzerland’s partners in Europe’s Schengen zone. Switzerland is in the Schengen zone but not the EU.

The issue has stoked passions in a country with a proud tradition of gun ownership and sport shooting, and where veterans of obligatory military service for men can take home their service weapons after their tours of duty. Switzerland’s system of regular referendums gives voters a direct say in policymaking.

Opponents of the measure insist it will do little to stop terrorism. They say it will crack down mainly on lawful gun owners and ram through what they perceive as the latest diktat from Brussels. About two-thirds of respondents in recent polls on the issue said they supported the measure.

Final results are expected by late afternoon on Sunday. Switzerland has not faced major extremist attacks like those that have hit France, Belgium, Britain and Germany in recent years, leaving scores dead.