The PROTECT Law: a Proposal for (School) Safety and Security

Matt Beyer
7 min readJan 17, 2023
Photo by Maria Lysenko on Unsplash

To those reading this,

I know I’m far from the first to say that gun violence, particularly school shootings, have been a recurring talking point over the past half-century; some may go so far as to call it a sad inevitability.

There have been several proposals regarding preventative measures, some more effective than others (which I’ll touch on in a moment). Although the human mind is extraordinarily complex, and there are multiple social factors that play a role in motivating shooters, I personally believe that the most humane way to address the issue is to make an effort to better understand the psychological and social roots of discontent that motivate these potential malefactors into conspiring and/or committing acts of needless violence and trauma. More simply put, we should all pursue and prioritize compassion over ignorance (the organization “Rachel’s Challenge” is a notable example of this). The power of a single act of kindness is so often taken for granted, but it can do an immeasurable amount of healing, externally and internally.

That being said, while we learn and grow together, we need to have a simultaneous fail-safe, which is what this proposal draft is ultimately about.

But first, we should explore the current fail-safe alternatives.

  • Metal detectors — generally affordable with a long track record, though only good for one access point, and can easily be maneuvered around (see the Moscone-Milk Murders), and that’s not to mention the inconvenience of creating a choke-point for everyone passing through — God forbid the person in front of you has ring binders, notebooks, rulers, laptops, or pens on them.
  • Teachers with guns — providing firearms to, presumably, trained staff. In short, I feel we need to distinguish the difference between teachers and police; both have their own codes to follow and should be kept separate, in order to avoid establishing a kind of Wild West vigilante group.
  • Law enforcement in schools — predominantly (paid) SROs, trained and sworn-in as public safety defenders, providing designated resources and service to the school. These officers have the benefit of fulfilling their duties within a smaller, concentrated sector, as opposed to a general portion of a town or city, though I believe they’re better suited for larger schools, assuming the local police station has enough officers to cover designated areas. Also, like any human being, they’re susceptible to succumb to stress in life-threatening situations.

Now that I’ve laid out some of the alternative proposals to address gun violence prevention, I want to discuss a proposal that I believe is worth examining. Although I admit that this plan is a bit ambitious, even radical to some, I’m a firm believer in the idea that a bold proposal is better than no proposal.

My idea for a fail-safe mechanism is what I currently refer to as “Projectile-Receiving Objects, Tracking Endangerment via Chip Technology, PROTECT, and by proxy, the PROTECT Law.

This proposed law (state or federal) essentially mandates that chip-tracking technology be integrated into newly-manufactured firearms, be it pistols, shotguns, rifles, etc., converting conventional guns into smart guns. Although by now not the most original idea (see South China Morning Post below), there are certain unique intricacies to the following proposal that I certainly believe are worth amplifying.

So let’s begin.

The conversion of new firearms — which may even extend to previously-manufactured firearms as well, though we’ll cross one bridge at a time — is obviously no easy task, considering how many of them are manufactured outside the United States, and thus, to my knowledge, not under direct U.S. jurisdiction. That said, for the purposes of clarity, let’s just assume the manufacturer is Smith and Wesson, a domestic firearms company. Under the law, S&W must integrate a microchip into each new firearm before selling them off to retailers. That, or the latter party will have to do it themselves, which would circumvent the aforementioned international market dilemma.

Meanwhile, a school (or higher authority) determines whether or not they want to implement the PROTECT system. If the board believes the system is worth the cost, the school is sent four tracking devices and a signal receiver system — another receiver system will be delivered to the local police station. The tracking devices will be placed on the four outer perimeter “corners” of the landowner’s property — in this case, school building[s]) — either below or above ground.

These GPS-type tracking devices will detect any micro-chipped firearms within the designated area and relay a signal to the school’s receiver, which will trigger a notification and/or alarm to both the school and the nearby police, signifying there is a potential threat on the premises*. The school will go into lockdown and, depending on the level of escalation, the SROs, local police, or National Guard — the only law enforcement or militia bodies permitted to carry non-converted, standard issue firearms on the premises — will spring into procedural investigative action, resorting to deadly force only if absolutely necessary. This distinction is very important because accidents do happen. Having grown up in a small rural town, I remember one occasion where the police were called on a student in my high school for storing a hunting rifle in his car trunk, bringing it onto school premises. How the police got word of this, I’m not totally sure, but the point of the story is don’t bring a gun to school, loaded or unloaded, unintentionally or otherwise.

I would also like to provide specificity to something else: placing scanners on the property line versus placing them tightly around the school building. The reason for being placed on the perimeter of the property, as opposed to the perimeter of the school building is two-fold. The first benefit of establishing a property perimeter is that the scanners have the range to detect firearms beyond one school building; hypothetically, it could also protect the adjacent district office, whose employees are in just as much if not more danger. The second benefit is that the scanners are more likely to detect longer-range weaponry outside the interior of the buildings. It’s important to recognize that not all school shooting casualties occur within an enclosed building, nor are they due to pistols or other small arms. The Texas Tower Shooting is a prime example of this.

But let’s think a little further. The trackers thus far were used simply to detect and alert occupants of potential incoming threats. But there’s a potential second purpose to them, this one dealing with the inner-mechanism of the weapon itself.

Remember Smith and Wesson? If S&W are integrating their chips, they must include them at least somewhere on the firearm, in a manner where it would be exceptionally difficult, if not impossible, to remove them. But if we were to take things one step beyond, the manufacturers (or retailers, assuming the firearms are international) would insert the chips in such a way that the firearm would be rendered inoperable when traversing onto school property. One way this could occur would be through a locking hammer-block system. When the potential perpetrator moves within range of the trackers, the hammer block would engage due to an electric signal. If the trigger were pulled, the hammer would hit the block, instead of the primer, and the gun wouldn’t fire — unless the block were faulty, though again, it would be configured in a way where it would be extremely difficult to tamper with. The only way that the hammer block could be disengaged would to have an off-site gunsmith manually unlock it.

To ensure the most thorough and safe procedures are being upheld, the trackers and receivers should be checked and tested regularly, though what falls under “regularly” can be defined by the institutions.

This, in a nutshell, is how the system would work, disciplining irresponsible gun owners, diminishing the stigma against responsible gun owners/enthusiasts, and potentially savings lives as well.

With all this being said, there are still multiple hurdles that need to be overcome. For example, I’m more than certain that there’d be political opposition to this type of proposal, though I find that hard to accept, because the proposal is actually quite bipartisan: those leaning left will get their gun control legislation, and those leaning right won’t have their guns taken away, just registered for chips, which can be done at the check-out counter during time of purchase. In addition, the only data the tracking device collects is the moment-by-moment location of the firearm, and that’s only if they come within range of the trackers (which again, only covers the area of the school property). No other information is collected, no data can be breached, and the defensive forces will have their evidence for probable cause.

The more difficult parts of the approval process pertain to issues that also ensnare other smart gun initiatives: the interminably long process of turning legislation into law, funding, corporate/constituent cooperation, research, reliability testing(s), additional costs for microchip implementation, and maintenance of equipment — on top of several other factors I’m sure I’m overlooking.

But with all this in mind, this is my layman’s invitation for open, civil discourse. I hope, at the very least, to have brought some insight surrounding an issue that continues to affect individuals, families, communities, and the greater American populace.

Lastly, I’ve provided a link for the Department of Homeland Security’s “Smart Gun Technology Patents” below, which provides a plethora of ideas — some similar, some unique — from numerous designers who are all united by a similar common goal.

If you have any comments, questions, concerns, clarifications, or corrections regarding anything addressed here, I openly encourage your discussion and feedback.

Thank you all for reading.

— Matt, firearms owner, and concerned citizen

*Update (7/1/23): Alternatively, as opposed to placing PROTECT equipment around a perimeter to prevent firing of the weapon, there’s also the option of having a factory-disabled firearm, meaning a microchipped firearm will not be able to fire unless within a PROTECTed perimeter. Examples of this could be a person’s private property (e.g. a person’s home, which could be legally covered via castle doctrine in the event of a break-in) or a local gun range. This in mind, there are complications to this proposal that should be explored moving forward before potential implementation.