Despite a Regal Cinema prohibition against firearms, Gallion sneaked his piece into the theater. He was, he later told police, “concerned about recent mass shootings in public places.” So concerned, in fact, that he kept his gun unholstered and tucked into his waistband, according to the Seattle Times.
Fifteen minutes into the movie, Gallion’s gun somehow went off, police say, striking the woman sitting in front of him. Gallion quickly ghosted out of the theater, allegedly discarding his gun’s magazine in a trash can on the way out. It was only when his retired Air Force colonel father learned of the shooting 90 minutes later and called 911 that Gallion finally turned himself in, according to the Times.
Gallion was arrested and charged with third-degree assault. His attorney, David Allen, told the Times that the shooting was “a terrible accident” and that there was “no intent involved.”
Doubts remain about how the shooting occurred, because of inconsistent statements Gallion gave to police.
And the shooting — which left 40-year-old Michelle Mallari in the hospital with a 9mm bullet wound on her back — has once again raised questions about whether concealed weapons do more harm than good.
Concealed weapon ownership has skyrocketed in recent years as the United States reels from successive mass shootings. A survey released in December found that two-thirds of Americans consider mass shootings a “critical” issue for the country, and the percentage of Americans who believe owning a gun will protect them and others has risen to unprecedented levels.
Yet people with concealed-carry permits are more likely to commit mass shootings than to stop them, according to The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham. He found that concealed-carry permit-holders have committed at least 29 mass shootings since 2007, compared with roughly eight known cases of permit-holders using their weapons to stop such mass shootings.
Anecdotal evidence keeps piling up on both sides.
On Friday night, for instance, a pair of concealed-weapon permit-holders prevented what might have been a mass shooting in Columbia, S.C. When two armed men tried to knock over a barbershop, a pair of customers pulled out their concealed weapons and opened fire, killing one suspect and sending the other one scrambling. There were several children inside the barbershop at the time of the shooting, according to WISTV.
“He smacked me in the back of my head, and I said, ‘Okay, this is probably when he’s going to shoot me now,” robbery victim Chauncy Harris told the television station. “But that’s when my man let loose. That’s when everybody else had their stuff and was ready to take care of business.”
And then there are times, such as on Thursday in Renton, when concealed-weapon permit-holders themselves prove dangerous. That was also the case in October when a female bystander pulled out her concealed weapon and shot at a pair of shoplifters in Michigan. Prosecutors called the woman’s decision to pull her gun “disturbing” and charged her with misdemeanor reckless use of a handgun. A concealed pistol license instructor, meanwhile, called the Michigan incident her “worst nightmare.”
In Washington state, Gallion appears to have brought to life his own worst nightmare by bringing his gun to the theater.
“He told some people he’d taken the gun out because he was concerned about the possibility of mass shootings there,” Renton Police Detective Robert Onishi told KOMO News.
Witnesses at the theater described a man, later identified as Gallion, as drunkenly “fumbling with a handgun he had in his possession when it went off, striking another patron seated in front of him,” according to a Renton police statement.
Moviegoer Nathaniel Hansen heard “just one loud pop,” he told reporters.
“We were in ‘13 Hours,’ so there were a lot of gunshots going on in the movie, but this was louder than everything else,” Hansen said. Seconds later, the shooter “walked out like nothing happened,” exiting through the theater’s front door while still holding the pistol, according to Hansen.
“He seemed like he was intoxicated or something because he was kind of stumbling around, so I don’t know if it was an accident,” Hansen added. “There was two people sitting there. As he was walking by them he just so happened to shoot one of them.”
After the gunshot, Gallion quickly left the theater because he didn’t want to be mistaken for a mass shooter, he later told police. On his way out, however, he hid his 9mm ammo clip. And when he arrived to his home in nearby Newcastle, Wash., he dropped his handgun in the driveway, where it was later recovered by his wife.
“He dumped the magazine of the gun in the trash can in the theater,” Onishi told the Times. “He was upset and he wanted to talk to family.”
When his family saw local news coverage of the shooting, Gallion’s father called the King County Sheriff’s Office to say his son’s gun had fallen out of his pocket and gone off in the theater.
But Gallion himself gave police a different explanation of the shooting. Gallion told the officer who arrested him that he had accidentally fired his gun when another moviegoer reached for his crotch, according to a probable-cause statement reviewed by the Times.
According to that same document, Gallion later gave officers another, slightly different version of events, saying someone in the theater had been bothering him when his gun accidentally discharged. The gunshot startled Gallion so he left the theater, he said.
“From having talked to him, it seems he didn’t have any intent to shoot anybody,” Onishi told KOMO News.
Gallion appeared in court on Saturday. He posted $25,000 bail and was released on bond. The father of two has one prior conviction for driving under the influence, KOMO News reported.
Until further notice, Gallion is not allowed to have a firearm.