The city of Miami is sending more than 150 used guns to Ukrainian police — not to soldiers fighting on the front lines of the Russian invasion.
In June, city officials announced the intention to put firearms in the hands of Urkainians defending their country, though it was not clear who would receive the weapons. Since then, the city has rushed to throw together a plan that became clearer Tuesday when the city announced that the police department for one of Kyiv’s suburbs, Irpin, would receive 167 surplus guns.
“We’ve been building a plane as we fly it,” said Commissioner Ken Russell, who has sponsored the idea. He’s running for Florida’s 27th Congressional District as a Democrat.
To facilitate the shipment, Miami commissioners on Tuesday named Irpin as one of Miami’s sister cities. The vote allows the city governments to coordinate the donation. A dozen of the guns were later displayed on a table at City Hall during a press conference. Officials hope other local police departments will piggyback on Miami’s plan.
The firearms range from guns purchased as part of the city’s buyback program to confiscated weapons. Miami police held a “Guns 4 Ukraine” buyback event on June 18, where the department offered gift cards worth between $50 to $200, depending on the type of gun.
Russell had previously proposed giving the guns to Ukraine, but it was not clear who would receive the firearms. Russell said that after he connected with a Ukrainian member of parliament, they requested that the guns be directed to Irpin police..
“This is an unprecedented effort, and many people were skeptical that a city would be able to do this, but we have found a way,” Russell said. “We are here to help them in their time of need, and they’ve shown their bravery.”
Officials on Tuesday said that the city has cleared the plan with the U.S. State Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Miami police also verified that confiscated guns weren’t part of ongoing criminal cases or reported stolen.
Miami’s city government has not yet signed an agreement with a licensed exporter but hopes to ship the guns within a few weeks, said Miami Police Chief Manny Morales.
Russell said Irpin’s police department has reported a shortage of handguns and rifles. In addition to guns, the city will also send helmets and bulletproof vests. Morales said they are assisting fellow police officers who are putting their life on the line, as they would in any other country fighting to keep their community safe.
Ukraine officials had asked them to send the initial shipment as soon as possible, according to Russell.
© 2022 Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC