Former CEO of Nonprofit Behind Gun Range Pleads Guilty to Gun Trafficking Charges

The investigation into Chad Kipper began after NBC 7 Investigates’ reporting on a gun range, operating with no permit, north of Escondido.

The former Chief Executive Officer of a nonprofit that advocates for “constitutionally limited government” pleaded guilty Monday to federal gun trafficking charges. 

Chad Clay Kipper, the former CEO of the Freedom Fighters Foundation, pleaded guilty to the “unlicensed purchase and transportation of firearms”, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

The Freedom Fighters Foundation owns a firing range north of Escondido, near San Pasqual, according to property records reviewed by NBC 7 Investigates. 

In January, San Pasqual residents first told NBC 7 Investigates that the range has caused “chaos” in their lives, with the constant shooting and risk of a potential fire hazard for the community. Today, those residents have said the shooting hasn’t stopped.

On Wednesday, San Diego County officials said they are still investigating whether the range requires a major-use permit to operate. To read more about that, click here

According to the criminal complaint, investigators "became aware" of the private firing range following NBC 7 Investigates’ reporting. The day after NBC 7 Investigates’ initial story aired, ATF investigators were already in the neighborhood, talking to residents in the area. 

According to the nonprofit’s website, the Freedom Fighters Foundation mission statement is to ”enlighten the participants to the misinformation and indoctrination they have received through the public education system and the media.” 

In the criminal complaint, investigators found Kipper “falsely claimed” to be an Arizona resident when he purchased 14 firearms in 2016. Kipper then “resold several of [the firearms] in California for a profit.” 

It is a federal crime for a person to misrepresent themselves or to purchase and transport firearms from one state to another unless the person is a licensed firearm dealer. Kipper was not licensed to sell firearms, nor had he registered any fully automatic weapons with the state, according to the criminal complaint. 

As part of a plea agreement, Kipper admitted to transporting firearms across state lines without a license to do so and agreed to forfeit sixteen “unlawfully obtained or possessed” firearms that ATF Agents seized during a warrant search of his Carlsbad home. Kipper is now a convicted felon and can never legally own a firearm. 

Kipper was sentenced to three years’ probation. 

NBC 7 Investigates contacted Robert Wright, the attorney representing the Freedom Fighters Foundation, who said, "Chad Kipper was terminated by the Freedom Fighters Foundation on April 30, 2018, when the Foundation learned that Mr. Kipper was charged with intentionally violating a federal firearms law—conduct unacceptable to the Foundation. Mr. Kipper has not been associated with the Foundation since that date." 

In April, San Diego County officials told the Freedom Fighters Foundation they had to make changes to the firing range property.

NBC 7 Investigates wanted to see what changes were made to the property. The team’s full story will be published Wednesday afternoon and will air on NBC 7 at 11 p.m.

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