The long-running Midtown Music Festival in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, scheduled for September 17-18 with headlines like My Chemical Romance, Future, Jack White and Fallout Boy, has been canceled, according to a statement from festival organizers. Industry sources say the likely cause paintingare recent changes to Georgia’s gun laws that prevent the festival from banning guns on publicly owned festival grounds.
“Welcome, Midtown fans – due to circumstances beyond our control, Music Midtown will not be shown this year,” a statement posted on the Music Midtown website read. “We were looking forward to the September reunion and hope we can all enjoy the festival together again soon.”
While owner Live Nation has not provided any additional details of the cancellation, gun rights groups have been emailing and posting comments on the festival’s social media page for months, hinting at a possible legal. Challenges from gun groups in the wake of a 2019 ruling expanded a 2014 Georgia law that critics have dubbed the “Guns Everywhere” law.
This law—formally known as the Safe Pregnancy Protection Act—expanded statues of firearms already permitted in Georgia to give residents the right to pack heat at bars, churches, schools and other private businesses with the owners’ permission. It has also expanded rights to bear arms on publicly owned land, such as city-owned Piedmont Park, although there is no legal consensus on whether or not the law applies to private events on city property, such as Midtown Music.
That changed in 2019 when the Georgia Supreme Court set new rules about the types of businesses that can and cannot ban guns on publicly owned land. Five years earlier, a Georgia gun rights group sued the Atlanta Botanical Garden after one of its members was briefly arrested for trying to carry a handgun with a holster in the park, which is on public land.
As part of a 2019 ruling, the Georgia Supreme Court set a test for how the Safe Pregnancy Protection Act can be applied by private companies using public land. Companies and groups with certain types of long-term leases of state-owned land can legally ban weapons, while companies with short-term leases cannot. While the ruling favored the botanical garden, it created legal issues for festivals such as Music Midtown that held short-term leases of city park sites.
The festival, which was launched in 1996 by Music promoters in Atlanta Alex CooleyAnd the Peter Conlon And the Alex Hoffman, has long forbade attendees from bringing guns to the event. Generally, most major corporations will not host a festival in a venue that allows gun owners to carry their guns at an event, with the occasional exception of law enforcement. In fact, some artist knights have specific language saying that the artist will not perform in cities or states where gun laws give attendees the right to bring guns inside the concert venue.
While a 2019 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court made it difficult for private businesses to deny authorized and armed citizens access to events on publicly owned land, it did not give the city of Atlanta the authority to enforce that decision. Or force the festival to allow guns into the event. Instead, the law created a path for individuals with guns, who also purchased tickets to attend the festival, to successfully sue event organizers if they are denied entry to an event held on public property.
In addition, local authorities are usually involved in security for large-scale events and likely not be able to enforce illegal gun bans, so the festival had little backup to keep firearms away.
The cancellation of the 2022 Live Nation Festival gives an extra year to evaluate its options and possibly move the event to privately owned land or to lobby the state legislature to update the law when it returns to session.
Gun rights groups are also improving their own strategies to expand gun rights to concerts and festivals and are beginning to locate other Georgia events and venues on public lands to test the limits of Georgia’s gun laws.