A Functional Polymorphism in a Serotonin Transporter Gene (5-HTTLPR) Interacts with 9/11 to Predict Gun-Carrying Behavior

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On September 11, 2001, one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in US history took place on American soil and people around the world were impacted in myriad ways. Building on prior literature which suggests individuals are more likely to purchase a gun for self-protection if they are fearful of being victimized, the authors hypothesized that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 would lead to an increase in gun carrying among US residents. At the same time, a line of research has shown that a polymorphism in the 5-HTT gene (i.e., 5-HTTLPR) interacts with environmental stressors to predict a range of psychopathologies and behaviors. Thus, it was hypothesized that 9/11 and 5-HTTLPR would interact to predict gun carrying. The results supported both hypotheses by revealing a positive association between 9/11 and gun carrying (b =. 426, odds ratio = 1.531, standard error for b =. 194, z = 2.196, p =. 028) in the full sample of respondents (n = 15,052) and a statistically significant interaction between 9/11 and 5-HTTLPR in the prediction of gun carrying (b = -1.519, odds ratio =. 219, standard error for b =. 703, z = -2.161, p =. 031) in the genetic subsample of respondents (n = 2,350). This is one of the first studies to find an association between 9/11 and gun carrying and, more importantly, is the first study to report a gene-environment interaction (GxE) between a measured gene and a terrorist attack.

Serotonin Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins, SLC6A4 protein, human, 5-HTTLPR, Firearms ownership, September 11 Terrorist Attacks (2001)
CC BY 3.0 (Attribution), ©2013 The Authors.