My Chemical Romance, Future, Jack White, and Fallout Boy were set to headline the venerable Music Midtown festival at Piedmont Park in Atlanta from September 17 to 18, but the event has been postponed, according to a statement from the organisers. According to insiders in the business, the most likely reason is that the festival is unable to restrict firearms on the publicly owned festival grounds because of recent revisions in Georgia’s gun laws. According to a message on the Music Midtown website, “Hey Midtown enthusiasts – due to circumstances beyond our control, Music Midtown will no longer be taking place this year.”
“We hope we can all soon come back to enjoying the event together,” they said. “We were looking forward to rejoining in September.” Pro-gun rights organizations had been emailing and posting comments on the festival’s social media page for months, hinting at potential legal challenges from gun groups in the wake of a 2019 ruling that expanded a 2014 Georgia law that detractors had dubbed the “Guns Everywhere” law. Owner Live Nation did not provide any additional information regarding the cancellation.
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The “Safe Carry Protection Act,” as it is formally known, increased Georgia’s already liberal gun laws by allowing citizens to carry guns with the owner’s consent inside bars, churches, schools, and other privately owned establishments. There was no agreement among lawyers as to whether the law applied to private events held on municipal property, such as Midtown Music, but it did broaden the rights to carry firearms on publicly owned property, such as the city-owned Piedmont Park.
The Georgia Supreme Court revised its guidelines in 2019 on the kinds of businesses that could and could not prohibit guns on publicly owned property. A Georgia gun rights organization sued the Atlanta Botanical Garden five years ago when one of its members was temporarily held for attempting to enter the garden, which is situated on publicly owned ground, while openly carrying a holstered revolver.
In its 2019 decision, Georgia’s supreme court established a standard for how the Safe Carry Protection Act will be applied by private companies operating on public property. Businesses and organizations having specific long-term leases over state-owned property were legally permitted to prohibit guns, but those with shorter-term leases were not. Although the Botanical Garden was given the advantage in the decision, it presented problems for festivals like Music Midtown that had short-term leases on public park locations.
The festival has historically prohibited attendees from carrying firearms to the event; it was founded in 1996 by music organizers Alex Cooley, Peter Conlon, and Alex Hoffman of Atlanta. With the exception of law enforcement, the majority of significant businesses will not typically hold a festival in a place that allows gun owners to bring their guns inside an event. Specific language in some artist rider agreements indicates that the artist will not play in towns or jurisdictions where gun laws permit concertgoers to bring their firearms inside the venue.
Although the Georgia Supreme Court’s 2019 decision made it more challenging for private organizations to bar licenced and armed individuals from attending events on publicly owned property, it did not grant the city of Atlanta the authority to enforce this ruling or compel the festival to permit guns. Instead, the law made it possible for those with guns who had also bought festival tickets to sue the event’s organizers if they were refused access to a gathering that was taking place on public grounds.
The festival would have had little to no backup to keep guns out because municipal authorities are normally involved in security for large-scale events and would not have been able to enforce an illegal gun prohibition. By postponing the festival in 2022, Live Nation will have an extra year to consider its options, possibly shift the event to a privately owned location, or petition the state legislature to alter the statute when it reconvenes. In order to test the limits of Georgia’s gun legislation, gun rights organizations have started locating additional events and venues in Georgia that are located on public land. These groups are also improving their own techniques for extending gun carry privileges into concerts and festivals.