Peter Chianca: Building a better bullet

Peter Chianca

Well, it’s official. Science has given up on building a better mousetrap. The mice of the world can breathe a collective squeak of relief.

Instead, science has clearly moved on to more important matters. I say this on the basis of its latest invention — the environmentally safe bullet. If you’re concerned about high lead levels, this product will probably be of interest to you. (Although if your high lead levels are being caused by bullets you may have some other things on your mind, like ducking.)

Made of non-toxic tungsten instead of nasty old lead, these fancy new bullets would not cause any harm if they were, say, eaten by a goose. Presumably they would still do some damage if they traveled through a goose at a high velocity, but what do you want? Science can only do so much at once.

Besides, this is clearly a good idea. It’s a fact that most hunters’ bullets don't end up in animals, to be safely disposed of later by a licensed taxidermist. Rather, the offending ammo is much more likely to come to rest in a tree trunk, a thicket of plants or the side of a 1988 Dodge Ram. Not to mention all the firing ranges, where on a given Saturday your average gun aficionado, practicing his Second Amendment rights, will expend enough lead to poison every goose on the eastern seaboard. And for some reason, a lot of people think that’s a bad idea.

But while the world may need an environmentally safe bullet, you can't help but wonder about the target audience for earth-friendly weaponry. I've been to the Earth Day concert, and I can't picture someone standing at a booth in between Heifer International and the La Leche League and plugging non-toxic bullets and mortar shells — it would only be a matter of time before they were pelted with hemp.

Is it possible that in our attempt to protect ourselves from all things noxious, we've gone a little overboard? Here’s another example: Science has spent the last several years mounting a full-scale war on bacteria, with which we've co-existed peacefully for centuries. My whole life, I've never been bothered by a bacteria. Give me a good bacteria over Pauley Shore any day of the week.

Yet to hear the cleaning product companies tell it, the fact that civilization has survived to this point just using plain old soap is miraculous — by their calculations, we should all be lying on the tile floor with our tongues hanging out of our mouths, millions of little bacteria rolling us for spare change.

Luckily, we have these companies to provide us with orange-colored antibacterial detergent, dishwashing liquid and hand soap — even deodorant. To this, I ask: Are people really compiling bacteria in their armpits? And why are those people always sitting next to me on the train?

As far as the bullets go, though, with the sheer number of them flying around out there, it's good that somebody is looking out for the little guy — specifically, the little guy who might, through no fault of his own, eat a lot of bullets. But science must remember that technology and education need to go hand in hand. Hence, we print the following slogan as a public service: "Remember, kids — bullets are for shooting, not for eating!"

And also, “Duck!”

Community Newspaper Company managing editor Peter Chianca is on vacation this week; this column appeared originally in 1999, which would explain the Pauley Shore reference. E-mail Peter at