Monthly Archives: February 2013

Are States With Tough Gun Laws Actually Safer?

Includes interactives and video

Source: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Gun control advocates say yes. Gun rights folks beg to differ.

Big surprise on that one.

Source: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an advocacy group pushing for tougher regulations, assigned every state a grade based on 29 different policy approaches to regulating firearms and ammunition. California topped the list with an A-. New York, which now requires background checks for ammunition sales, has since surpassed it in the toughness of its gun laws. It’s the first state to enact such legislation following the Newtown shooting. And  efforts in a handful of other states — including California and Colorado —  to strengthen gun laws are already underway. Continue reading

The Loose Laws and Loopholes of Federal Gun Regulations

Includes videos


When it comes to gun laws in the U.S., we’re as far from united as it gets. Beyond the loose set of federal regulations that everyone must follow, there are 50 unique state laws and even more individual county and city rules. It’s resulted in a confusing tapestry of gun regulations that vary drastically depending on where you happen to be. There’s variation in anything from background checks and handgun permit requirements to the sale of semi-automatic weapons and waiting periods. Even rules on allowing firearms on college campuses, in bars, or even in churches can differ across certain state lines.

Federal Gun Law

Federal regulations apply to everyone. But due largely to the intense lobbying efforts and political influence of the gun industry and gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association, these laws have been significantly stripped over the last two decades (see our gun control timeline); they’re now far and away the loosest (and vaguest) of any industrialized country in the world. States must meet the basic requirements, and then have the option to enact some stricter regulations … if they choose to do so.

Federal law prohibits buying or transferring firearms across state lines, owning machine guns and other certain high capacity devices, and bringing guns onto school zones (“except as authorized”). Under the law, you also can’t buy or possess a gun if you’ve been convicted of domestic assault or other serious crimes, dishonorably discharged from the military, or if you have a restraining order against you. The prohibition also includes fugitives, drug users, illegal immigrants, and those deemed mentally ill or institutionalized. Continue reading

Is It Time To Raise The Federal Minimum Wage?

Includes interactive maps, video, audio
Source: NPR

Source: NPR


Much of President Obama’s State of the Union address last Tuesday centered on the theme of boosting America’s dwindling middle class.

“It’s our generation’s task,” he implored, “to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.”

Among the more tangible policies mentioned that evening to further that objective,  the president proposed raising the federal minimum wage – from $7.25 per hour to $9 by the end of 2015 –  and provide for annual cost of living adjustments. (This would apply to most hourly jobs, with some exceptions, including some tip-based work.)

“Let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty,” he said. “Working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up, while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Gov. Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.” Continue reading

The State of the Union Explained in Four Visualizations

Includes multimedia visualizations
President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, gives the State of the Union address. (Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images

President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, gives his 2013 State of the Union address. (Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images)

So, what did the big guy actually say? These four multimedia resources help sort through the nitty gritty of the president’s speech. Continue reading

What Policies Do Americans Care Most About?

Includes interactive chart

Source: Pew Research (click to explore the interactive)

President Barack Obama tonight delivers the first State of the Union address of his second term. The speech is expected to include an ambitious list of policy goals and priorities – from boosting the economy and reforming the nation’s immigration system to advocating for new policies on gun control and climate change.

The speech is widely considered to be among the most significant of Obama’s remaining political career. That’s because second term presidents generally only have a limited window of time – as little as year – to accomplish their big-ticket goals before the lame duck syndrome sets in. Continue reading