Opinion Politics

Music-Free Midtown (Opinion)

Why the popular music festival was cancelled
A packed Music Midtown at Piedmont Park in 2012 // Photo by William Haun
A packed Music Midtown at Piedmont Park in 2012 // Photo by William Haun

In early August, the annual music festival, Music Midtown, announced its cancellation, allegedly due to Georgia’s Safe Carry Protection Act. The festival was set to welcome big-name artists such as Jack White, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Future, along with about 25 other artists that were set to take the stage on September 17 and 18, 2022. The cancellation sparked controversy in the media as well as a distaste for the legislation. The cancellation of an event that draws in over 300,000 attendees and 50 million dollars in revenue to Georgia has served as evidence of the ambiguity of Georgia’s gun legislation.

The right of citizens to own firearms has been a predominantly gray area since the formation of the United States, dating back to the second amendment which reads, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This language has a broad interpretation. The Supreme Court, as well as the United States population, has gone back and forth on how to interpret this amendment. The two major interpretations of the Second Amendment are 1: that it pertains to the right of individuals to keep and bear arms and 2: that it relates to the states and their right to have a militia. The first interpretation is primarily in use and is also the interpretation that led to the cancellation of Music Midtown.

The legislation that allegedly led to the cancellation of Music Midtown was the Safe Carry Protection Act, also referred to as the “Guns Everywhere Act,” signed by former Governor Nathan Deal in April 2014. This could raise questions about why Music Midtown declared its cancellation eight years later. In pursuit of finding out why, I approached U.S. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May. She led me toward a Georgia Supreme Court Case dating to 2019. In GeorgiaCarry.org, Inc. et al. v. Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Inc., the Atlanta Botanical Garden sought to ban firearms on leased land from the city of Atlanta where the jurisdiction of the Safe Carry Protection Act extends. In response, a visitor to the gardens, Phillip Evans, filed a lawsuit with the Superior Court of Fulton County. He had a valid carry license and claimed that on Georgia property, he should have the right to carry a firearm. The case progressed through the courts and landed on the desk of the Georgia Supreme Court. This has been an eight-year battle, as Evans originally filed the lawsuit in 2014. In September 2022, the courts officially ruled that the garden was permitted to ban firearms on the premises.

The primary issue at hand is that Piedmont Park is not private property. It is public property leased to a private organization, and because of this Music Midtown is unable to ban guns justifiably. Disregarding the safety concerns that arise from firearms being permitted at a festival that admits over 300,000 guests, many artists state in their contracts that in order for them to perform, firearms must be barred from the premises. Generating 50 million dollars in revenue for Georgia, the Music Midtown Festival is not something that will be released lightly. The festival organizers must decide on the future of Music Midtown. It is likely that the organizers will seek a private venue in order to enforce a policy that would bar firearms or it is also possible of a special carve out in the legislation for large-scale music festivals.

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