WESTFIELD – It was a time to usher in a new season, the next season.
But Chris Ballard had to get something off his chest.
Before diving into his annual pre-training camp press conference with the media Tuesday at Grand Park Sports Campus, the Indianapolis Colts’ general manager opened with a two-plus-minute salvo that addressed the continued gun violence that’s long-plagued the country.
Ballard began by offering condolences to the victims and families of the July 17 mass shooting at the Greenwood Park Mall. Three individuals were killed and two others injured when a 20-year-old opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle. A bystander who was legally carrying a handgun killed the shooter.
There have been more than 300 mass shootings in the United States this year.
“I don’t understand,’’ Ballard said. “To me, it’s a lot of common sense, and we lack it right now in this country. It’s a shame. Highland Park, Ulvade, Greenwood, Buffalo. When does it end? When does some common sense come into play, and when does this end?
“When do our elected officials actually do something about it instead of their own political gain? Both sides, both sides are completely wrong.’’
Ballard stressed he’s not “anti-gun, but I’m anti-military-style weapons that . . . it blows my mind away that an 18-year-old kid can walk in and buy an AK-15 automatic weapon. It makes no sense. Zero.
“It’s a shame that we live in a country that can’t come to an agreement because of politics on doing the right thing for our country. It makes zero sense. Zero. So, anyway, my prayers are with them.’’
He noted the opening of camp might not have been an appropriate forum to address gun violence. But his exasperation with the issue demanded he use his platform for a serious non-football issue.
“It’s a shame . . .’’ Ballard said. “Eventually we’ll get up and not have to talk about this, but right now, we can’t remain silent on this issue. I think (Golden State Warriors coach) Steve Kerr said it best. We can’t become numb. That’s what we’ve done. We’ve become numb to it like it’s just OK. It’s not OK.
“People need to be held accountable and our politicians need to be held accountable. At what point are they going to put their own self-interest aside and do the right thing for the country?’’
Many of the recent shootings have struck a special cord with Ballard, Frank Reich and the Colts.
The Greenwood Park Mall is a short drive from Lucas Oil Stadium and is a popular shopping venue in Marion County. The Fourth of July Highland Park, Ill., shooting that took seven lives occurred roughly 20 miles from Chicago, where Ballard spent 12 years in the Bears organization. Also, Ballard is a native of Texas, so the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., hit close to home. Nineteen students and two teachers were killed. Another 17 people were injured.
On May 14, 10 people were shot and killed and three more injured when a white supremacist opened fire on a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store. Reich remains one of the most popular Buffalo Bills following a 10-year career with the organization.
Reich and Colts owner Jim Irsay have donated to the Buffalo Together Fund.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.