God, Guns, and School Shootings

God, Guns, and School Shootings May 27, 2018

Ten dead and ten injured in a high school shooting, but Texas Governor Greg Abbott believes “the problem is not guns, it’s hearts without God.”

Texas Governor: ‘The Problem is Not Guns, It’s Hearts Without God’

The problem with Governor Abbott’s theory is that it doesn’t fit the facts.

For example, California has a larger population (39.5 million) than Texas does (28.3 million), so one would expect that there would be more school shootings with fatalities and more school shootings with injuries but no fatalities in California than in Texas. But the reverse is actually the case:

School Shootings with Fatalities (10/1/15 to 5/18/18)
⦁ Texas – 6
⦁ California – 5

School Shootings with Injuries and no Fatalities (10/1/15 to 5/18/18)
⦁ Texas – 10
⦁ California – 9

[Data is from LA Times report on school shootings and population data is from the Census Bureau ]

So, the population of Texas is only 72% of the population of California, but Texas had 16 serious school shootings (with fatalities or with injuries but no fatalities) while California had 14 such school shootings in the same time frame, making the number of such school shootings in Texas 114% of the number of such school shootings in California.

Clearly, the facts show that Texas has a greater problem with school shootings than California does.  If “hearts without God” was the root cause of this problem, then we would expect to find that the population of California was more religious than the population of Texas. But the reverse is the case. The population of California is less religious than the population of Texas:

Percentage of the Population that Are Atheists or Agnostics
⦁ California – 9%
⦁ Texas – 5%

Percentage of the Population that are “Nones” (unaffiliated with any religion)
⦁ California – 27%
⦁ Texas – 18%

Percentage of the Population that are Christians
⦁ California – 63%
⦁ Texas – 77%

[Data is from the Pew Research Center ]

A larger portion of the population in California are atheists or agnostics than the portion of the population in Texas. A larger portion of the population in California are unaffiliated with any religion than the portion of the population in Texas.  A smaller portion of the population in California are Christians than the portion of the population in Texas.

Clearly, if “hearts without God” is the root cause of serious school shootings, then we would expect California to have a much greater problem with serious school shootings than Texas, but in fact Texas has a greater problem than California with serious school shootings!

The factual evidence against Governor Abbott’s theory is not limited to a comparison between the two most populous states in the USA. The bigger problem with his theory is that the USA is a very religious country compared with European countries, and yet the USA has a much bigger problem with school shootings than we find in European countries:

Number of School Shootings Since 2009
⦁ USA – 288
⦁ France – 2
⦁ Germany – 1
⦁ Spain – 0
⦁ Italy – 0
⦁ UK – 0

[Data from a CNN report on school shootings]

The USA has a larger population than these European countries, but the size of population does not account for the huge difference in the number of school shootings. Let’s put the number of school shootings in terms of how many occur per ten million people:

Number of School Shootings/Ten million People Since 2009
⦁ USA – 288/32.8 = 8.78
⦁ France – 2/6.7 = 0.30
⦁ Germany – 1/8.0 = 0.01
⦁ Spain – 0/4.9 = 0.00
⦁ Italy – 0/6.2 = 0.00
⦁ UK – 0/6.5 = 0.00

[Data is from the US Census Burea and from a CNN report on school shootings]
Clearly the USA has a much bigger problem with school shootings than do European countries. But the USA is a more religious country than the above European countries, with the exception of Italy:

Percentage of the Population that is Not Religious (2017)
⦁ Italy – 26%
⦁ USA – 39%
⦁ France – 50%
⦁ Spain – 57%
⦁ Germany – 60%
⦁ UK – 69%

[Data is from WIN-Gallup International Association ]

Note that other international data indicates that Italy and the USA are about the same in terms of portion of the population that claims to have “no religion”:

Percentage of Population that has “no religion” (2006)
⦁ USA – 20%
⦁ Italy – 18%

[Data is from the Dentsu Communication Institute  ]

Clearly, the population of the USA has a significantly higher percentage of religious people than the populations of France, Germany, Spain, and the UK, but the problem of school shootings is a much bigger problem in the USA than in those European countries. The population of Italy is slightly more religious than the population of the USA, but the number of school shootings per ten million is dramatically lower in Italy (i.e. zero school shootings since 2009), so the slight difference in religiosity does not account for that huge difference in the size of the school shooting problem in those countries.

California is significantly less religious than Texas, but Texas has a bigger problem with serious school shootings than California, and a number of European countries are less religious than the USA, but the USA has a far bigger problem with school shootings than do European countries.

It is clear that the facts do NOT support Governor Abbott’s theory. If any thing, the facts indicate the opposite of his theory. Religiosity and belief in God appear to be positively correlated with the occurrence of school shooting incidents.

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UPDATE on 5/28/18

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The population of Canada is 35.8 million vs. 28.3 million for Texas. The size of the population of Texas is 79% of the size of the population of Canada.  [Canada population is from the Census Bureau ]

Between 10/1/15 and 5/18/18, as stated in my post above, there were 16 school shooting incidents in Texas that involved fatalities or injuries.

Since 2009, there have been only 2 school shooting incidents in Canada where at least one person (other than the shooter) was shot. Canada has a significantly larger population than Texas, and the period of time for the school shootings in Canada is more than 3.5 times longer than the period of time in which the 16 shootings occurred in Texas (32 month period for Texas data, 113 month period for Canada data). [Canada school shooting data is from a CNN report  ]

So, the number of serious school shootings in Texas during the longer period of time (starting back in 2009 instead of 2015) could easily be double or even triple the 16 school shootings that occurred in the past 32 months in Texas. It is very likely that the number of serious school shooting incidents in Texas is at least TEN TIMES more than the number of serious school shooting incidents in Canada, even though Canada has a significantly LARGER population than Texas.

So, if “hearts without God” is the root cause of school shootings, then we would expect Canada to be MUCH MORE religious than Texas, but in fact, the opposite is the case.

I don’t have data that directly compares Canada and Texas, but the data I do have clearly indicates that Canada is significantly less religious than Texas.

57% of the population in Canada is not religious. [Data is from WIN-Gallup International Association ]

I don’t have the same statistic for Texas, but the data strongly indicates that only around 20% of the population of Texas is not religious. Here are two statistics that support this estimate:
(1) 18% of the population of Texas are not affiliated with any religion, and
(2) 86% of the people of Texas say either that religion is “very important” or that it is “somewhat important” to them.
[Data is from the Pew Research Center ]

Canada is MUCH LESS religious than Texas, yet Texas has FAR MORE serious school shootings than Canada, even though Canada has a significantly larger population than Texas.

This is yet another significant comparison that provides strong evidence against Abbott’s theory about the cause of school shootings.

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UPDATE on 5/29/18

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According to Governor Abbott’s view, New York must be much more religious than Texas.

NY has a population of 19.8 million, which is 70 percent of the population of Texas. So if school shootings in NY were as common as in Texas, we would expect to have had about 11 serious school shootings in NY over the same 32 month period in which there were 16 serious school shootings in Texas. [Data on population of NY and Texas is from the Census Bureau ]

But the actual number of such school shootings in New York was ZERO! On Abbott’s theory, NY should be much more religious than Texas, but it is actually less religious than Texas. [Data on number of serious school shootings is from an LA Times report ]

Like California, 27 percent of the population of NY are NOT affiliated with any religion, while only 18 percent of Texans have no religious affiliation.  Also, 10% of the population in NY are atheists or agnostics, while only 5% of Texans are atheists or agnostics.  So, Texas is MORE RELIGIOUS than New York, but the problem of serious school shootings is MUCH GREATER in Texas than in New York. [Data on religion in New York is from the Pew Research Center and data on religion in Texas is also from the Pew Research Center ]

Governor Abbott’s theory about the cause of school shootings is clearly contrary to the facts.

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UPDATE on 5/30/18

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One last comparison, just to put a final nail in the coffin of Governor Abbott’s theory that the root cause of school shootings is “hearts without God”.

ALABAMA VS. VERMONT

It would be interesting to compare the frequency of serious school shooting incidents in the most religious state with the frequency of serious school shooting incidents in the least religious state to see whether that would confirm or disconfirm Governor Abbott’s theory about the root cause of school shooting incidents.  If his view was correct, we would expect to see a much bigger problem with school shooting incidents in the least religious state as compared with the most religious state.

Alabama is the most religious state in the USA:
⦁ It has the lowest percentage of religious “nones”: 12%
⦁ It has the lowest percentage of people who are atheists or agnostics: 2%
⦁ It has the highest percentage of people who are Christians: 86%

Vermont is the least religious state in the USA:
⦁ It has the highest percentage of religious “nones”: 37%
⦁ It has the highest percentage of people who are atheists or agnostics: 14%
⦁ It has the lowest percentage of people who are Christians: 54%

[Data on religion in Alabama and Vermont is from the Pew Research Center ]

[Religious “nones” are people who are not affiliated with any religion.]

However, a comparison of school shooting incidents between Alabama and Vermont would not be very helpful, because Vermont has a very small population of only about 624,000. (In my state, the state of Washington, the city of Seattle has a larger population than the entire state of Vermont!)  Alabama has a much larger population of about 4.8 million.  The population of Alabama is 7.7 times the size of the population of Vermont. [Data on population of states is from the Census Bureau ]

WASHINGTON IS ONE OF THE LEAST RELIGIOUS STATES IN THE USA

It would be more appropriate to compare Alabama with one of the least religious states that has a population in the millions of people. My state, the state of Washington, is just such a state.

Washington has a high percentage of religious “nones”, a relatively high percentage of people who are atheists or agnostics, and a relatively low percentage of Christians, so it is similar to Vermont in terms of religiosity, and it is among the least religious states in the USA:

Percentage of Population who are Religious “nones”
⦁ Washington: 32% religious “nones”
⦁ Vermont: 37% religious “nones”

Percentage of Population who are Atheists or Agnostics
⦁ Washington: 10% are atheists or agnostics
⦁ Vermont: 14% are atheists or agnostics

Percentage of Population who are Christians
⦁ Washington: 61% Christians
⦁ Vermont: 54% Christians

[Data on religion in Washington and Vermont is from the Pew Research Center ]

ALABAMA VS. WASHINGTON

Comparison of the religiosity of Alabama and Washington:

Percentage of Population who are Religious “nones”
⦁ Alabama: 12% religious “nones”
⦁ Washington: 32% religious “nones”

Percentage of Population who are Atheists or Agnostics
⦁ Alabama: 2% are atheists or agnostics
⦁ Washington: 10% are atheists or agnostics

Percentage of Population who are Christians
⦁ Alabama: 86% Christians
⦁ Washington: 61% Christians

[Data on religion in Washington and Alabama is from the Pew Research Center ]

Clearly, Alabama is a much more religious state than Washington, so according to Abbott’s theory, we should expect that serious school shootings are a much bigger problem in Washington than in Alabama.  But the OPPOSITE is actually the case.  Alabama has a much bigger problem with serious school shooting incidents than Washington.

Size of Population 
⦁ Washington population: 7.4 million
⦁ Alabama population: 4.8 million

[Data on population of these states is from the Census Bureau ]

The population of Washington is 1.54 times the size of the population of Alabama.  There have been 7 serious school shooting incidents in Alabama over the past 32 months, so if school shootings were as common in Washington as in Alabama, we would expect to have had about 11 serious school shootings in Washington over the past 32 months:

7 serious school shooting incidents  x  1.54  =  10.78 or about 11 serious school shooting incidents

But in fact there have been less than half of that number of serious school shootings in Washington:

⦁ Alabama had 7 serious school shooting incidents in the past 32 months
⦁ Washington had 5 serious school shooting incidents in the past 32 months

[Data on school shooting incidents is from an LA Times report on school shooting incidents. ]

So, serious school shootings are MUCH LESS of a problem in Washington than in Alabama.

Because Alabama is a MUCH MORE religious state than Washington, Abbott’s theory about the root cause of school shootings leads us to expect that serious school shooting incidents would be much more common in Washington than in Alabama.  But the OPPOSITE is the case.  Alabama is a much more religious state (the most religious state in the USA) but it has a much bigger problem with serious school shootings than Washington, which is one of the least religious states in the USA.

When we compare the most religious state in the USA with one of the least religious states, we find that the facts are EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what Governor Abbott’s theory predicts.

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