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As Democrats won control of the Virginia legislature in November, an image started to spread online showing a child in hunting hear holding a dead deer.
One such post published on Facebook Nov. 8 says: "Yesterday Virginia announced the end of youth hunting! The governor said that no kid under 18 will be allowed to shoot a gun. This is the end of a 400 year tradition of kids helping put food on their family’s (sic) table. It’s a sad day in the Commonwealth!"
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
We reached out to the governor’s office about the claim but didn’t hear back. However, the state’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries wrote in a Nov. 8 Facebook post that it "wanted to clear up some rumors that have been circling about youth hunting in Virginia."
"There are no changes to currently scheduled youth hunting days," the post says. "All current laws and regulations pertaining to hunting in Virginia are in effect as shown on the DGIF website and the current Hunting & Trapping in Virginia Digest. Any changes to hunting laws would require action either by the Virginia General Assembly or the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries, and currently no such changes are proposed."
In November, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced that in the upcoming legislative session he would push for gun control measures like "getting rid of bump stocks" and reintroducing red flag laws designed to remove firearms from people deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others. After a mass shooting in Virginia Beach in May, Northam introduced eight policy proposals and called a special session to address gun control, but no action was taken before it was adjourned by Republicans, CNN reported.
The proposals included "legislation enhancing the punishment for allowing access to loaded, unsecured firearm by a child from a Class 3 Misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony," according to July a press release, and raising "the age of the child from 14 to 18."
Outdoors writer Ken Perrotte wrote a Nov. 27 column in the Free Lance-Star, a newspaper in Fredericksburg, Va., warning that "proposed legislation would be trouble for Virginia hunters."
One bill for the upcoming 2020 session, writes Perrotte, "would make it a felony to leave loaded, unsecured firearms where anyone under the age 18 could access them. This bill also contains a bombshell provision that makes it a crime for anyone under age 18 to use a firearm without adult supervision. Presumably, this includes hunting scenarios."
The proposed legislation says it would be unlawful for anyone "to recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any person under the age of 18."
But a spokeswoman for the governor’s office told the Associated Press that "a responsible hunter — regardless of age — would not be affected by this bill."
The bill also says it would be unlawful for anyone younger than 21 to "knowingly and intentionally possess or transport a handgun or assault firearm anywhere in the Commonwealth." However, that wouldn’t apply to "any person actually engaged in lawful hunting or going to and from a hunting or preserve," according the proposed legislation.
We further didn’t find evidence that the state "announced the end of youth hunting," as the Facebook post says, or that the governor "said that no kid under 18 will be allowed to shoot a gun."
We rate this post False.
Facebook post, Nov. 8, 2019
The New York Times, Virginia election: Democrats take full control of state government, Nov. 5, 2019
FactCheck.org, Erroneous claim of ‘end of youth hunting’ in Virginia, Nov. 22, 2019
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Facebook post, Nov. 8, 2019
News Channel 11, Virginia officials: No changes to scheduled youth hunting days, Nov. 10, 2019
AP News, Virginia governor has not outlawed youth hunting, Nov. 12, 2019
Virginia Governor’s office, Governor Northam unveils gun violence prevention legislation ahead of July 9 special session, July 3, 2019
The Free Lance-Star, Ken Perrotte, Proposed legislation would be trouble for Virginia hunters, Nov. 27, 2019
SB 18, prefiled Nov. 18, 2019
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