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Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, gives an answer during Ohio's U.S. Senate Republican primary debate on March 28, 2022. (AP) Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, gives an answer during Ohio's U.S. Senate Republican primary debate on March 28, 2022. (AP)

Ohio state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, gives an answer during Ohio's U.S. Senate Republican primary debate on March 28, 2022. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 2, 2022

Claim that Ohio US Senate candidate Matt Dolan sought gun grabs for social media posts is False

If Your Time is short

  • Dolan sponsored a bill in Ohio that would have allowed for guns to be taken from a person if a court determined, in certain situations, that person was a danger to himself or others.

  • The bill would not have allowed for confiscations by SWAT teams based on citizens reporting a person’s social media posts.

  • The bill did not become law.

Did a Republican U.S. Senate candidate sponsor legislation to allow citizens to send SWAT teams to confiscate guns from gun owners?

That’s the attack made by a gun-rights group against Matt Dolan, an Ohio state senator who’s seeking the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Ohio’s May 3 primary.

In a minute-long video ad, Ohio Gun Owners said that another candidate for the Republican nomination, former Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel, would expand gun rights. 

Then the ad alluded to 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, a gun control advocate. It claimed that Dolan "sponsored Bloomberg's red-flag gun confiscation law, letting the people reporting your social media posts send SWAT teams to your house to take your guns."

This description of the bill distorts how a policy Dolan sponsored would have worked.

Red-flag laws, which have been adopted in some states, provide a mechanism for a court to order that guns be taken from people who exhibit dangerous behavior before they harm themselves or others. 

An Ohio bill that Dolan sponsored, which did not become law,  would have required a court to order gun confiscations. But it would have applied to people being evaluated for involuntary hospitalization, not to people in the community at large. 

It would not have allowed for citizens to direct SWAT team confiscations based merely on a person’s social media posts.

Red-flag laws require court review

Under red-flag laws — also known as extreme risk protection order laws — police or citizens can petition a court for an order removing guns from a person who is in the community.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have adopted such laws, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. That includes 14 laws that came after the 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, according to Stateline, a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

In December 2019, Bloomberg, a former New York mayor, proposed a number of gun-control measures, including a federal red-flag law, as part of his presidential campaign platform.

Dolan’s proposal different than red-flag

In October 2019, Dolan introduced a gun bill known as "STRONG Ohio" in the wake of a mass shooting in Dayton. It was known as Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s bill. 

It did not receive a vote and did not become law.

DeWine initially had indicated that his gun bill would include a red-flag provision, but one was not included, disappointing gun-control advocates. At the time, DeWine’s administration said it opted not to include a red-flag provision because one that protected gun owners’ due process proved "inadequate and unworkable." 

Instead, DeWine proposed expanding the state's "pink slip" system, which places mentally ill Ohioans in hospitals for up to 72 hours, to include people dealing with chronic alcoholism or drug dependency. 

After a hearing, a court could decide to take away that person’s guns. 

Writing about the bill at the time, Dolan suggested that this provision was essentially the same as a red-flag law, but it was taking a "constitutional route to achieve the same goals."

Dolan wrote:

"SB 221 builds upon current Ohio law, which allows a person to report an individual to authorities for an involuntary exam assessing threatening behavior, mental illness and/or addiction. The results of the medical exam are then utilized to, first, determine if medical intervention is needed to treat the individual, and, second, if the individual is mentally unfit to have access to firearms during this treatment. ...

"If, after a full due-process hearing, a court finds the individual should be prohibited from having a gun, law enforcement or family members can, under court order, safely remove the firearms from the individual."

Ohio Gun Owners responded to PolitiFact’s request for evidence behind its claim by alluding to the pink slip system. But the group did not provide any other supporting information. We didn’t receive a reply from Dolan’s campaign.

In states with red-flag laws, guns can be taken temporarily from a person who is reported to police as being dangerous until a court hearing is held on whether the guns should be removed for a longer period. The Ohio law applies only when a person is being considered for forced hospitalization for, for example, mental illness.

There is no factual basis to idea that, under the Ohio bill, a gun owner’s guns could have been taken away — by SWAT teams or by any other law enforcement means — simply due to a person reporting the gun owner’s social media posts to authorities. Court orders must be issued.

Even with the more expansive red-flag laws, a judge or other judicial official such as a court commissioner hears a request from police or a citizen and decides whether to issue a preliminary order without holding a hearing or notifying the gun owner on whether the gun owner’s guns should be seized. These orders are temporary and last a couple of days to a few weeks, depending on the state. The gun owner then has a chance to make his or her case at a hearing before a judge decides on a final order. That order commonly lasts for a year.

Ohio race could help decide Senate control

The Ohio Senate seat is opening because Republican Rob Portman, who was elected in 2010, is not seeking reelection. 

Besides Dolan and Mandel, the Republican candidates include businessman Mike Gibbons, former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken and author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance

The leading Democratic candidates are U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and consumer protection attorney Morgan Harper.

Overall, the race is rated by campaign watchers as "leans" Republican, "likely" Republican and "solid" Republican.

Our ruling

Ohio Gun Owners claimed that Dolan "sponsored Bloomberg's red-flag gun confiscation law, letting the people reporting your social media posts send SWAT teams to your house to take your guns."

Dolan sponsored a bill in Ohio, which did not become law, that would have allowed for guns to be taken from a person if a court determined, in certain situations, that person was a danger to himself or others. The bill would not have allowed for confiscations by SWAT teams based on citizens reporting a person’s social media posts.

We rate the claim False.

RELATED: Fact-checks in the 2022 Ohio Senate race

RELATED: The race for the Ohio U.S. Senate seat: A guide

RELATED: Fact-checking ads in the 2022 elections

Our Sources

Meta, Ohio Gun Owners Matt Dolan ad on Facebook and Instagram, started running April 21, 2022

Email, Ohio Gun Owners political director Rob Knisley, April 26, 2022

Cincinnati Enquirer, "Ohio governor decides against 'red flag' law, proposes optional private sale background checks," Oct. 7, 2019

Associated Press, "GOP Ohio governor’s gun plan doesn’t include ‘red-flag’ law," Oct. 7, 2019

New York Times, "Bloomberg Proposes Sweeping Gun Agenda, Including Federal Licensing," Dec. 5, 2019

Ohio Legislature, 134th General Assembly Senate Bill 221, accessed April 25, 2022

Ohio Capital Journal, "DeWine’s anti-gun violence bill faces perilous deadline," Dec. 3, 2020

PolitiFact, "Do red flag laws allow gun seizure without a judge’s OK?", Oct. 28, 2019

Columbus Dispatch, "Dems question DeWine's gun bill," Nov. 6, 2019

Cleveland.com, "STRONG Ohio bill will make a difference in controlling gun violence: Matt Dolan," Dec. 03, 2019

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Claim that Ohio US Senate candidate Matt Dolan sought gun grabs for social media posts is False

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