After a longtime customer in Ukraine fell quiet during Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the nation, Adrian Kellgren’s family-owned gun firm in Florida was left holding a $200,000 cargo of semi-automatic weapons.
Fearing the worst, Kellgren and his company KelTec decided to put those stranded 400 guns to good use, sending them to Ukraine’s fledgling resistance movement to assist civilians in defending themselves against Russian military shelling of their apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, and hiding places.
Kellgren, a former US Navy pilot, remarked, “The American people want to do something.” “We take pride in our liberties and hold them in high regard. And it’s awful when we watch a group of individuals being blasted like this.”
Cocoa-based The contribution by KelTec is a high-profile example of Americans collecting weapons, ammo, body armor, helmets, and other tactical gear in response to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s commitment to equip his compatriots. Many other grassroots attempts, however, have been stymied by a lack of familiarity with the complicated web of rules that regulate the overseas transportation of such equipment.
Kellgren, who has dealt with similar red tape for years, was able to contact with a diplomat in the Ukrainian Embassy through a Ukrainian neighbor, who assisted him in obtaining a federal arms export license in just four days. This procedure might take months.
Workers at KelTec’s warehouse forklifted four plastic-wrapped pallets holding their 9 mm folding rifles for transport to a secret NATO-run facility this week, while Congress debated whether to transfer more modern weaponry and defense equipment to Ukraine. The weapons will then be smuggled into the conflict zone by the shipment’s new receiver, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense.
Kellgren explained, “That’s when the true heroics and derring-do occurs.”
Elected politicians, sheriff’s departments, and organizations from California to New York claim to have gathered hundreds of sets of body armor and millions of rounds of ammunition for Ukraine.
Last week, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis launched a campaign to get excess ballistic helmets and other equipment from police and sheriff’s departments. “We know it can be utilized immediately to halt Putin and preserve Ukraine,” he stated.
However, dangers abound: 400 bulletproof vests were stolen before they could be shipped by a New York City group coordinating a collection campaign.
Many of the organizers are unfamiliar with foreign arms export regulations, which may need permission from the Departments of State, Commerce, and Defense to transport even non-lethal tactical gear. Organizers of one such push in New York are relying on KelTec’s recent acquisition of a license to export 60 long rifles.
At a press conference on Friday, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman stated, “I’m hoping that this campaign grows throughout the United States and that every gun dealer and every gun manufacturer in the United States takes these gifts.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for guns makers, sent out step-by-step instructions on how to apply for an expedited export license to its more than 8,000 members this week. They also gave a list of sniper weapons, handguns, and ammo that Ukraine’s embassy in Washington had requested.
KelTec anticipates arranging further shipments in the future. Its license authorizes it to export up to 10,000 guns, and it has promised Ukraine its own production line and weekly supplies.
Details of KelTec’s efforts were revealed in a Justice Department filing this week by Lukas Jan Kaczmarek, a Maryland-based real estate lawyer who said that as a volunteer with the Ukrainian-American Bar Association, he is assisting Ukraine in acquiring weapons alongside Volodymyr Muzylov, the Ukraine Embassy’s first secretary.
In his registration as a foreign agent of the Zelenskyy government, Kaczmarek said, “I anticipate to operate in this role throughout the duration of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and I have not, am not, and shall not get any monetary recompense for my services.”
KelTec isn’t the only company that has responded to the call.
Another Florida manufacturer, Adams Arms, shared a video of a shipment of carbine rifles intended for Ukraine on its Facebook page. T-shirts depicting the legendary last broadcast of a shelled Ukrainian Border Guard unit telling a Russian cruiser to “Go (expletive) Yourself!” are now available from the firm. The proceeds from shirt sales will go to the war funds of the Ukrainian National Bank.
While weapons couldn’t match Putin’s Sukhoi fighter aircraft and cluster bombs, they can help if the Russians become bogged down in street-to-street fighting, according to former US Army Major John Spencer.
KelTec’s semi-automatic rifles are potentially more important than high-tech anti-aircraft missiles, which need substantial training and are out of reach for most citizens, many of whom have never even touched a gun before, he claims.
Spencer, an urban warfare specialist at the Madison Policy Forum in New York, stated, “Every shipment of weaponry is crucial.” “You’re giving one more warrior, out of tens of thousands, the chance to strike back with a basic weapon.”
Kellgren said the inventiveness and perseverance of Ukrainian civilians have impressed him, and he believes the weapons he’s donating will help.
“The people of Ukraine are fending off a superpower with primarily civilian weaponry,” he stated. “So the X-factor here isn’t necessarily the equipment you’re carrying…. It boils down to the desire to fight,” says the author.