Looking back, Christian Gunter says it is better to be judged by 12 than carried by six.
Gunter was arrested Oct. 5 after shooting Roger Atlas in the lower abdomen, after the pair were engaged in a road rage incident on the Tamiami Trail.
Gunter, 22, faced aggravated battery with a firearm charges — a felony punishable by a minimum of 25 years in prison under Florida’s 10-20-Life Law.
But earlier this month, the State Attorneys Office dropped all charges against Gunter, largely due to the fact that Atlas’ stories conflicted with two surveillance videos of the shooting — a discrepancy Atlas said was caused because he was “not feeling well.”
I interviewed Gunter and his lawyer Sarasota Attorney Jeff Young Monday about the shooting, his brief stint in jail and his bout with the criminal justice system.
What he said should be required reading for everyone who carries a defensive firearm.
“I’m hanging in there, aside from $20,000 debt,” Gunter said. “I’ve gotta make the best of the situation. That’s all I can do.”
Young is working on getting the arrest — which will show up on Gunter’s records — expunged. And he’s petitioning the court to return the young man’s firearms.
Even though all charges have been dropped, Gunter declined to talk about the shooting, since prosecutors still have the ability — however unlikely — to refile charges. That ability ends after 120 days, Young said.
Gunter invoked his Fifth Amendment rights after the shooting. “The best advice you can get it to contact a lawyer,” he said. “Because that day, they were going to arrest me regardless, whether I talked or not.”
The surveillance video, which was obtained exclusively by the Herald-Tribune after the shooting, shows that Atlas — not Gunter — was the initial aggressor, so I asked Gunter why he thought he’s the one who ended up in handcuffs.
“I think it’s mostly politics,” Gunter said. “It’s like with domestic violence — if the cops show up, somebody’s going to jail. Unfortunately, I believe that needs to be changed because you shouldn’t be in fear to have to use your concealed carry permit to defend yourself. That’s why you have it. It’s just a shame. If I would go through it, you would go through it too. The law needs to change.”
Looking back, Gunter said there’s nothing he would have done differently. And he was effusive in his praise for Manasota Gun Traders — a group of gun owners that raised thousands of dollars for his defense, of which he’s a member.
“MGT and even members of other gun groups — they all came together to help me out on this,” he said.
— If we don’t run into each other at the range, you can reach me at (941) 284-8553, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail, 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You also can follow me on social media at facebook.com/TheGunWriter or Twitter.com/ht_gunwriter or watch us on our new YouTube Channel.