Americans from the private and public sectors have banded together in efforts to arm and supply the Ukrainian people in their continued defense against the Russian invasion.
As the fourth week of the conflict is underway, many American citizens who’ve been following the news have felt the desire to contribute in some fashion. While in some cases this has meant outpourings of affection or monetary donations to see to needs like food and housing, others have seen fit to provide the eastern European nation with a leg up on defense.
Adrian Kellgren, a former U.S. Navy pilot and owner of Cocoa, Florida-based weapon manufacturer KelTec, had a shipment of semi-automatic rifles valued at $200,000 ready to go for a customer of his in Ukraine. When he hadn’t heard from them following the beginning of the invasion, Kellgren decided to find a different way to get the weapons into the hands of Ukrainian citizens.
KelTec's donation of 400 rifles is a rare example of Americans successfully collecting guns in response to President Zelenskyy’s promise to arm his citizens.
Many grassroots efforts are underway but have been snarled by export regulations.https://t.co/1nHOMRLODG
— Joshua Goodman (@APjoshgoodman) March 18, 2022
“The American people want to do something,” Kellgren told 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.”
Due to myriad regulations on international arms shipments, Kellgren set up contact with a diplomat in the Ukrainian Embassy through an associate and was able to secure a federal arms export license, a lengthy process that could take months, in a matter of four days.
While Congressional leaders debated the sort of heavy artillery and defense the federal government would utilize in assisting Ukraine, KelTec had four pallets of foldable 9mm rifles on their way to a NATO-run facility for distribution.
Adams Arms out of Brooksville, FL is shipping donations out to the Ukrainians and posted a video of their recent shipment ready to go, writing, “Another Ukrainian shipment getting ready ship out. A lot of brands throw their rifles out of helicopters to demonstrate durability, ours go to war. Why settle for anything less?”
They are also selling T-shirts with the reported broadcast from the defenders of Snake Island that reads “Go F*ck Yourself!” in regards to the Russian invaders. The proceeds raised from the sale of those shirts will be donated to the Ukrainian National Bank’s war fund.
In addition to businesses like these taking a stand, public sector groups like police departments are looking for ways that they can make an impact.
The Greenfield Police Department gathered up protective equipment including vests and helmets to contribute to the California Office of Emergency Services shipment to soldiers in Ukraine. Similarly, the Vermont National Guard and State Police have teamed with local law enforcement and private citizens to assemble a body armor drive so long as the equipment has a rating of III or higher.
I appreciate the @VTNationalGuard bringing this opportunity to our attention, and the efforts of the Vermont State Police, local law enforcement agencies and any members of the public who can contribute to this effort. 3/
— Governor Phil Scott (@GovPhilScott) March 9, 2022
The Colorado Department of Public Safety and Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs had also held a statewide armor drive to contribute to the defense efforts. They wrote, “If even one life of a citizen soldier who is defending their country is saved, then this time-sensitive effort will have been worth it. Please consider donating your serviceable used or excess body armor and ballistic helmets.”
As word of these charitable efforts spreads, others have found their own ways to contribute. Maryland-based real estate lawyer Lukas Jan Kaczmarek said that he learned about what KelTec was doing through the Justice Department and, as a volunteer with the Ukrainian-American Bar Association, he is using his talents to assist the Ukrainian Embassy to acquire weapons like these, AP reported.
“I expect to work in this capacity for the duration of the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Kaczmarek wrote in his registration to act as a foreign agent for the Ukrainian government, “and I have not, am not, and shall not receive any monetary compensation for my assistance.”
Assistance like this is critical as Fox News reported that a New York City nonprofit had 400 bulletproof vests stolen before they could be shipped out. For this reason, the National Shooting Sports Foundation distributed step-by-step instructions on how to acquire and expedite export licenses like Kellgren’s to navigate International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
While Kellgren acknowledges the difference these shipments make, he believes the real difference is in the will of the Ukrainian people.
“The people of Ukraine have had mostly just civilian firearms and they’re holding off a superpower,” he said. “So the X-factor here not isn’t necessarily what equipment you’re holding. … It comes down to the will to fight.”
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