The Fight to Bear Arms

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Firearms and four-wheelers are integral parts of rural Arkansas. Where you see one, the other isn't far away. One Little Rock man can no longer combine the two at his hunting camp. Avid hunter Jamie Bitely hasn't been hunting since 2009. That's when he learned that despite having no criminal record, he's no longer allowed to have a gun. Dashcam video shows several officers and EMT's trying to help a disoriented Jamie Bitely in June of 2006. An hour earlier Bitely had been knocked unconscious in a four-wheeler accident in southwest Pulaski County. The 25 year-old Bitely is seen coming around and is confused and unhappy to find himself strapped to a gurney and heading for a hospital. "When we got to the hospital...blood running out of his ears," says Gary Bitely, Jamie's father. "I thought we was gonna lose him." Despite no criminal history and no alcohol or drugs in his system, Bitely was even more combative at the hospital. He lashed out at a doctor and bit a nurse. His conduct resulted in a criminal charge (Battery in the 2nd Degree). "I'm a good guy, I think," says Jamie Bitely. "I've never been in any trouble other than this particular incident." Three years later a court ruled that Bitely's conduct was the result of a head injury and that "...the defendant is no longer affected by mental defect and never had mental disease. Therefore, the defendant is acquitted of the offense by reason of his mental disease or defect and discharged." Bitely didn't know it at the time, but the defense offered to secure his freedom would end up costing him something he says he values even more. "I would not have taken away a way of life for myself," says Bitely. "I'm an avid hunter and fisherman and, you know, owning guns is a big part of that. And now I no longer have the right to do so." Federal firearms prohibitions state that anyone found "...not guilty by reason of lack of mental responsibility" loses the right to purchase or possess any firearm or ammunition. Three different doctors have examined Bitely and all agree his behavior was a temporary condition caused by the head injury suffered in the four-wheeler accident. One doctor has this to say about Bitely: "He is no longer affected by mental defect and never had mental disease." But the Department of Justice remains unswayed. A 2010 letter sent to an intervening Senator Mark Pryor states that Bitely's loss of gun rights " permanent unless it is relieved pursuant to a state relief program by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Currently, Arkansas has no such approved program." "They're looking at the acquittal and the reason for the acquittal," says Jamie Bitely. "That's as far as they go. Because I have sent in paperwork many times to try and get them to see that in the doctor's report it says it was a temporary ordeal." "You're his dad. You're with him every day. Is he a danger or a threat? Describe him to me." "No...he's just a pleasant guy to be around," says Gary Bitely. "All he is wanting to do is to be able to hunt and do what he was brought up doing." Gary Bitely says expungement is his son's best chance at having his gun rights restored but he says that is an expensive option. Jamie Bitely believes it would have been easier to get his gun rights restored had he been found guilty of second degree battery rather than not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Air date: May 9th, 2014