A former U.S. Navy pilot who owns the Florida-based gun manufacturing company KelTec sent 400 semi-automatic rifles to resistance forces in Ukraine fighting against the Russian invasion.
“The American people want to do something,” said veteran Adrian Kellgren, who owns KelTec, according to The Associated Press. “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.”
Kellgren said a customer in Ukraine had ordered $200,000 worth of firearms from his family-owned business, but he lost contact with the Ukrainian shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion began.
Wanting to help in any way he could, Kellgren and his company worked with a diplomat at the Ukrainian Embassy who helped him get a federal arms export license in less than a week. The process typically takes months, the AP reported.
KelTec personnel then worked quickly to package and ship the 9 mm foldable rifles to an undisclosed location operated by NATO. Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense will then take control of the arms and smuggle them into the active war zone.
“That’s when the real derring-do and heroism begins,” Kellgren said, adding that he hopes to organize additional shipments in the coming weeks.
The license obtained by KelTec allows the company to ship up to 10,000 weapons overseas, prompting Kellgren to offer Ukrainian forces their own production line and weekly deliveries.
Kellgren said Ukrainian citizens’ determination in the face of Russian forces is inspiring, and he is confident the weapons KelTec is providing will make a difference.
“The people of Ukraine have had mostly just civilian firearms and they’re holding off a superpower,” he said. “So the X-factor here isn’t necessarily what equipment you’re holding. … It comes down to the will to fight.”
KelTec’s material support for the Ukrainian resistance came to light in a Department of Justice filing by Lukas Jan Kaczmarek, a real estate lawyer who is acting as a volunteer with the Ukrainian-American Bar Association and helping Ukraine acquire firearms.
“I expect to work in this capacity for the duration of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and I have not, am not, and shall not receive any monetary compensation for my assistance,” Kaczmarek wrote when he registered as a foreign agent of the Ukrainian government.
Retired Army Major John Spencer said that while the rifles are useless against Russian fighter jets and explosives, they are must-haves in street-to-street combat.
“Every shipment of firearms is critical,” said Spencer, an urban warfare analyst at the Madison Policy Forum, a New York-based think tank. “You’re giving one more fighter, out of tens of thousands, the opportunity to resist with a simple-to-use weapon.”