Following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Adrian Kellgren’s Florida family-owned gun business was left holding a USD 200,000 shipment of semi-automatic weapons. This was due to a longstanding Ukrainian client who had gone silent during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
It was Kellgren’s and KelTec’s decision to put those 400 stranded weapons to use and has sent them to Ukraine’s fledgling resistance organization to assist civilians fight back against Russian invasion in which Russia has been bombarding their homes and other places of shelter repeatedly.
“The American people want to do something,” said Kellgren, who is a former U.S. Navy pilot. “We enjoy our freedoms, we cherish those things. And when we see a group of people out there getting hammered like this, it’s heartbreaking.”
Cocoa-based KelTec’s donation is one of the high-profile examples of Americans acquiring firearms, ammo and other tactical gear in reply to Ukraine’s commitment to equip its population. A lack of knowledge about international shipping restrictions has prevented many similar grassroots attempts from succeeding.
For the first time in years, Kellgren was able to contact a Ukrainian diplomat at the Embassy of the United States via a Ukrainian neighbor and get a federal weapons export license in only four days. That may take months to complete.
Workers at KelTec’s warehouse forklifted 4 plastic-wrapped pallets holding their 9 mm folding rifles to be sent to an unknown NATO location this week, while Congress discussed whether to transfer more modern weaponry and defense equipment to Ukraine. The weapons will be smuggled into the conflict zone by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, the shipment’s new receiver.
“That’s when the real derring-do and heroism begins,” Kellgren said.
Millions of rounds of ammunition and thousands of sets of body armor have been gathered by elected politicians, sheriff’s departments, and non-profit organizations from California to New York.
Last week, Governor Jared Polis of Colorado began a push to solicit excess ballistic helmets and other gear from the state’s police and sheriff agencies. “We know that it can urgently be used to help stop Putin and save Ukraine,” he said.
In many cases, the organizers are unfamiliar with international weapons export restrictions, which may need permission to transport even non-lethal tactical gear. One such initiative in New York is taking advantage of KelTec’s recent acquisition of an export license for 60 long guns.
On Friday, Bruce Blakeman, Nassau County Executive, told reporters, “I’m hoping that this movement spreads through the whole United States and every gun store and every gun manufacturer in the U.S. accepts these donations.”
Expedited export license application instructions were recently issued to more than 8,000 members of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for gun manufacturers. In addition, they presented the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington with a list of sniper rifles, handguns, and ammunition they sought.
In the future, KelTec plans to supply additional products. Up to 10,000 firearms are allowed to be exported under the company’s authorization, and weekly supplies of weapons have been promised to the Ukrainians.