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Virginia governor has not outlawed minors from hunting

November 12, 2019 GMT

CLAIM: Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has declared it illegal for minors to participate in hunting season.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. No such announcement has been made, and the youth hunting season in Virginia, which has concluded for the year, has not been outlawed.

THE FACTS: Facebook posts wrongly suggest that the Virginia governor has announced minors are barred from hunting in the state.

The posts began circulating after Virginia Democrats won control of the Legislature in last week’s election, with Northam soon after announcing he intends to reintroduce several legislative gun proposals once the new lawmakers are sworn in.

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Virginia residents 16 and older are eligible to apply for hunting licenses. 

Youth hunting season in Virginia _ which applies to young hunters age 15 or younger _ has not been altered, the Virginia Department of Gameland and Inland Fisheries confirmed to The Associated Press in an email.

“Any reports of cancellations or changes to the scheduled youth hunting days are inaccurate,” the agency said in a statement.

The 2019 youth hunting season is over in the state. Youth hunting days were offered Sept. 28-29 for deer, and Oct. 12-13 for bear and turkey. A youth waterfowl hunting day was held Oct. 26. 

During deer hunting weekend, for example, children under the age of 12 are allowed to hunt without a license as long as they are with an adult at all times.

After last week’s election, Northam said he plans to work with the new Democratic majority when the next legislative session begins in January.

Stricter gun laws, which include universal background checks and banning military-style assault weapons, are at the top of the governor’s list, the AP reported last week.

Northam had also proposed a package of gun-control measures during a special session in July, in response to a mass shooting in Virginia Beach. One of the bills calls for anyone who “recklessly leaves a loaded unsecured firearm in such a manner to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of 14” to be punished with a misdemeanor charge and up to a $500 fine.

“A responsible hunter -- regardless of age -- would not be affected by this bill,” Alena Yarmosky, a spokeswoman for the governor, said in an email to the AP.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536