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Atlanta’s Music Midtown Festival Canceled Because of Georgia’s Ridiculously Lenient Gun Laws

The state doesn't allow short-term tenants on public property to impose their own firearms rules

Open carry gun
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    Atlanta’s Music Midtown has been canceled just a month and half before the festival had been set to begin. Though the Live Nation-owned event only cited “circumstances beyond our control,” reports have it that Georgia’s incredibly lenient open carry gun laws are the cause.

    Atlanta-based journalist George Chidi tweeted about the likely cancelation of Music Midtown last Friday, noting he’d heard that “it is because Georgia’s gun laws make it impossible to bar firearms from Piedmont Park, a condition required by many artists’ concert riders” (via Rolling Stone).

    Former Governor Nathan Deal signed HB60 into law in 2014; the bill was dubbed the “guns everywhere” bill by media outlets. Essentially, the law greatly reduced limitations on open carry, allowing gun owners to bring their firearms into almost any public space including churches, bars, government buildings — and public parks.

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    To test the limits of the law, gun rights advocate Phillip Evans purposefully carried a handgun into the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which leases its land from the City of Atlanta but had a gun ban in place for its property. That case wound its way through the Supreme and Appellate Courts for eight years, finally reaching a conclusion back in April: The Botanical Garden could in fact ban firearms because it has a long-term lease with Atlanta.

    This is where Music Midtown comes in: Live Nation’s lease to hold the event at Piedmont Park is short-term, despite it being held there since 2011. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Botanical Garden case left it open that such short-term leases don’t grant “estate for years” status, and thus lease holders cannot impose their own gun-free rules on public spaces.

    The ruling didn’t explicitly outlaw gun-free rules from being imposed, and indeed Music Midtown’s prohibited items list includes “weapons or explosives of any kind.” What the law does do, however, is make it nearly impossible for the annual event or any festival to enforce any such rules, as local authorities are heavily involved in security and would not be able to enforce what amounts to an illegal ban. What’s more, it opened the possibility for Evans to file a similar lawsuit against Music Midtown if it tried to bar him from the event while he carried a firearm — something he directly threatened to do.

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    As Chidi noted, many artists have added gun-free clauses to their tour riders, especially given the recent epidemic of mass shootings and tragedies like 2017’s Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas. Beyond which, the very idea of allowing people to enter a crowded space where alcohol is flowing, heat is beating down, and safety should be a prime concern is straight up nonsense.

    With Music Midtown unable to legally enforce a gun-free zone on its festival grounds, Live Nation had no choice but to cancel the 2022 event. Originally set for September 17th and 18th, this year’s fest was set to feature My Chemical Romance, Jack White, Future, Fall Out Boy, Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski, Phoenix, and more.

    Tl;dr: Because Georgia wants to let people carry firearms into a crowd of 50,000 where alcohol is being served, we can’t have nice things.

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