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Concealed-Handgun Law Blasted After Driver Shot During Dispute Foes Of New Texas Rules Say It’s Not A Good Idea To Arm Motorists

Sat., Feb. 24, 1996, midnight

Opponents of Texas’ new concealed-handgun law saw this one coming: They predicted there would be a traffic accident, an argument and then - because a pistol was handy - a shooting.

It happened Wednesday. And for the first time since Jan. 1, when Texans were allowed to carry concealed handguns, someone has been charged with murder for using such a weapon.

The victim was Kenny Tavai, a 33-year-old delivery truck driver from Killeen. The alleged gunman was Gordon Reid Hale III, a 42-year-old Grand Prairie man who had a permit to carry his .40-caliber pistol.

It started when Hale drove his pickup too closely alongside Tavai’s truck as they approached a red light, and the vehicles clipped mirrors, police said.

Tavai walked up to Hale’s truck and they argued; Tavai punched Hale at least once, possibly three times, in the head, face and shoulder, police spokesman Ed Spencer said. Tavai was shot in the chest and died at a hospital.

Hale was charged with murder and released on $25,000 bail.

“I have said from the beginning that it didn’t seem like a good idea for people to be carrying concealed weapons in traffic when people can have fender-benders and lose their temper,” said Rep. Sherri Greenberg, a Democrat and one of the law’s staunchest opponents. “It’s simply not a good idea.”

Co-workers said Hale got his permit because he uses a metal detector as a hobby and often goes to parks or unsafe neighborhoods early in the morning.

His lawyer, Vincent Perini, said Hale was within his rights to shoot.

“It was for guys like him that this law was passed,” Perini said. “The concealed handgun law was passed to enable law-abiding citizens to repel unlawful attacks.”

State law says Texans can use deadly force when a person faces “aggravated kidnapping, murder, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated robbery.”

As of Wednesday, the state Department of Public Safety had issued 16,263 concealed-handgun licenses, out of 54,236 applications and 210,563 requests for applications. Nine applications have been denied.

“Just because you have a piece of paper to carry a weapon doesn’t mean you have the right to take someone’s life,” said Luann Etimani, Tavai’s sister-in-law.


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