I was thrilled to tick two boxes during early voting this week. I was less sanguine about that prospect when I voted in US elections via email last November.

My ballot wasn't cast for a presidential candidate, but for a proxy - a member of the electoral college who would validate my vote. I'm grateful in New Zealand, the choice was mine.

I'm grateful, too, for issues that fail to spin in the same nauseating rollercoaster loops as they do in America.

One of those hot topics is gun rights, which I thought about last week after the country's latest school shooting.

This shooting was different from the 15 school shootings reported last year and three catalogued so far this year, because it happened near my last hometown - Spokane, Washington.

Police say 15-year-old Caleb Sharpe killed 15-year-old Sam Strahan and wounded three girls at Freeman High School.


Sharpe had brought an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and a handgun to school in a duffle bag.

A member of the church we attended in Spokane teaches at Freeman. She reported later that day she was safe and grateful for an outpouring of community support.

The first few days after the shooting, I resisted reading details. I knew they'd make me sad and angry.

Sad another mother has lost a son. Angry laws in the States and its gun culture allow firearms to proliferate like garden snails (albeit deadly ones). The standard trope is "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

Sometimes, those killers are toddlers. Or teenagers. Or adults with mental illness.

In my 15-year career as a TV reporter in America, I covered accidental shootings, some involving young children who had found a parent's weapon and used it to kill a friend or sibling.

In at least one case, a boy discovered where his father had hidden the key to the gun safe.

Responses following each new school or mass shooting in the States are predictable: first shock, expressions of love and concern, then pleas that "this isn't the time to talk about gun control."

To paraphrase a friend, that's like saying we shouldn't talk about structural engineering after a bridge collapse.

Thirty-six states have no legal requirements for gun registration, no permit needed and no license necessary to purchase and own a firearm, according to a report last year in Huffington Post.

A 2012 federal estimate reported as many as 310 million guns in the US, one for almost every person.

By comparison, New Zealand is estimated to have up to 1.5 million firearms in a country of about 4.7 million people.

The process of legally acquiring a gun in Aotearoa is long, complicated and expensive (internet sales and black market aside).

Many Americans would be gobsmacked to learn New Zealand law is widely interpreted as prohibiting firearms for self-defence (some gun rights activists dispute this).

Or that most police officers here don't carry guns.

I'm relieved I send my children to schools where the risk of a shooting, while not non-existent, remains much lower than if they attended classes with peers whose parents possessed arsenals containing everything from pistols to rifles to semi-automatic weapons capable of firing 25 rounds in 2.5 seconds.

Investigators in the Freeman school shooting found 34 boxes containing 20 rounds each of .223 ammunition in the alleged gunman's home.

The US firearm-related death rate stands around five times higher than New Zealand's.

No wonder, then, many Americans can recount a brush with gun violence.

My then-fiance, Sean, and I were nearly shot in our Spokane apartment in 1999 after a gunman unloaded a semi-automatic into the side of the building.

In the middle of the night, Sean shoved me off the bed when the shooting woke him up (I was a heavy sleeper before having kids).

A shell lodged in my underwear drawer a couple metres from where we had slept.

New Zealand gun laws were tightened following the 1990 Aramoana massacre where a 33-year-old mentally ill man shot 13 people, including a police officer.

His primary weapon was a semi-automatic rifle.

In Australia, government officials have sharply reduced availability of semi-automatics through a federal buy-back programme and mass confiscations.

Such measures would be nearly impossible in the States due to the Second Amendment, number of guns and strength of the firearms lobby.

A Waikato University law professor last year told MPs the risk of a mass shooting in New Zealand was growing due to the threat from right-wing and religious terrorists, along with "lone wolf" attacks as seen in Europe and the United States.

He backs a national gun register, especially for higher-powered weapons.

Many US trends migrate Downunder - TV, movies, technology, food... Kiwis want what Americans have.

But we don't want a neighbourhood arms race and the mass shootings they might expedite.