Music Midtown has been canceled due to Georgia gun laws preventing the festival from imposing a gun ban at the concert venue. Although Music Midtown has remained indiscript in its decision, local and national media confirmed the festival’s firearm rationale. 

“Due to circumstances beyond our control, Music Midtown will no longer be taking place this year,” Music Midtown announced Aug. 1. “We were looking forward to reuniting in September and hope we can all get back to enjoying the festival together again soon.”

Refunds will be processed in the next 24 hours, according to festival organizers. 

The festival, which is organized by Live Nation and drew about 50,000 attendees last year, including hundreds of Emory students, was scheduled to take place on Sept. 17 and Sept. 18 in Piedmont Park. Headliners included My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Future and Jack White. Artists like Louis the Child, Phoebe Bridgers, 2 Chainz and Quinn XCII were also set to perform.

Megan Thee Stallion performed at Music Midtown in Piedmont Park on Sept. 19, 2021. (Anjali Huynh)

News of the cancellation first broke on July 29 by Atlanta journalist George Chidi.

“Music Midtown is about to be cancelled,” Chidi tweeted. “My understanding is 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. An announcement is coming, I am told by a reliable source.”

This follows reports of pro-gun rights groups emailing and posting comments on Music Midtown’s social media accounts, as well as a challenge from gun rights advoate Phillip Evans in May.  

Although the festival prohibits “weapons or explosives of any kind,” Georgia law allows for guns to be carried in public spaces like parks. HB60 — dubbed the “guns everywhere” bill — expanded where guns are allowed in Georgia in 2014.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed SB319, or the Georgia Constitutional Carry Act, into law in April, further solidifying citizen’s rights to carry guns in public, including parks. 

Sam Goldstone (25C) said he hopes people will vote for Democratic candidates during the November elections in response to the laws loosening gun restrictions, which are largely backed by Republicans.

“The fact that guns have more rights than people in this country is genuinely… absurd,” Goldstone said. “I find it wild that the legislative body in our state would prioritize the well being of literal firearms over that of human beings and people.”

The 2019 Georgia Supreme Court Case GeorgiaCarry.org v. Atlanta Botanical Garden set the precedent against Music Midtown implementing a gun ban. The Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Inc. — which has leased land from the city of Atlanta for over 50 years — attempted to ban firearms from the Garden. Evans argued that he was allowed to carry a firearm under OCGA 16-11-127 (c), which says that licensed gun owners “shall be authorized to carry a weapon as provided in Code Section 16-11-135 and in every location in this state,” with the exception of government buildings, courthouses, jails, prisons and places of worship.

However, OCGA 16-11-127 (c) also notes that private property owners and people in legal control of a property have the right to ban firearms. 

The Court ultimately ruled that a private tenant on publicly owned land can ban firearms if they have an “estate for years” lease, which is a long-term agreement that gives the tenant some property rights and responsibilities, such as paying property taxes and constructing buildings. Short-term tenants with “usufruct” leases cannot ban firearms, according to the Court’s decision.

The decision leaned in the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s favor as the Garden has an “estate for years” lease. However, Music Midtown is only two days, meaning the festival likely does not have an “estate for years” lease and cannot implement a gun ban.

Evans emailed Music Midtown organizers in May, referencing the Georgia gun laws and Supreme Court case. CNN reported that Evans also requested that the City of Atlanta deny Live Nation’s permit for Music Midtown due to the festival’s attempted ban on firearms. 

The City of Atlanta should respect state law and uphold it when dealing with entities that make use of tax-payer owned properties that wish to make money from such usage, or even otherwise,” the email said.

Music Midtown is the first major Atlanta-metro music festival to be canceled due to firearm concerns. ONE MusicFest featuring Lil Baby, Rick Ross and Gucci Mane is scheduled for Oct. 8 and Oct 9 at Central Park.

Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman responded to Music Midtown’s cancellation in a tweet on Aug. 1, calling it a “sad day.”

Public policy has real impacts and in this case- economic and social implications on a great tradition,” Shipman tweeted.