State gun laws

January 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

guns in america

The federal government enforces a few basic gun laws: you generally can’t have a machine gun or a silencer; you can’t buy a gun if you are crazy, you are a gun addict or have been convicted of a major crime; and you have to submit to a background check before you plunk down your money on a shiny Smith & Wesson. Beyond that, it’s up to the states to say whether you can conceal a gun, own super-size magazines or buy a bunch of rifles at once.

You face a mighty challenge sorting out these state laws for your readers with an infographic. I’ve found that the best way is to select your topic first—say, background checks at gun shows—and then compile a list of which states regulate it and to what degree. I used to get this info from The Brady Campaign, but then I discovered that they get their material from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The Law Center keeps very good, up-to-date lists of state gun laws. You can find them here:


Reproducing currency legally

September 14, 2009 § Leave a comment


Using representations of U.S. currency in an infographic makes me nervous. But some times you just have to do it. For instance, you may want to show the security features on the new U.S. bills, analyze the symbols on our currency  — or just make an illustration that includes a dollar. (I’m assuming the McClatchy graphic above used an actual $100 bill and not a counterfeit one. But the laws of reproduction would apply even if it were an actual counterfeit bill being represented.)

Before doing so, carefully read the rules provided by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on their Web site

The key point is that you need to reproduce the image at more than 1.5 times actual size or less than 0.75 times actual size for ANY PORTION of the bill you show. So even if you are cropping in on Lincoln’s ear, the lobe can’t be actual size.

Death-penalty statistics

July 10, 2009 § Leave a comment


This Sun-Sentinel infographic is an example of what can be produced with statistics kept by the Death Penalty Information Center, a go-to source for statistics on executions and death row inmates.

The DPIC tracks executions by state, race, date, age, gender and method. They keep their figures up to date and list upcoming executions as well.


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