This year, the sweltering, stressful fall semester will not be remedied by two days of drinking overpriced beer and dancing to one-hit wonders in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. That’s right — Live Nation canceled Music Midtown.
“It’s the gun nuts,” my friend said in a text that arrived minutes after the cancellation was announced. “They ruined it again.”
According to local and national news outlets, Georgia’s gun laws axed the festival — namely the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014, which has been nicknamed the “guns everywhere bill” and allows Georgia residents with concealed carry permits to bring their guns into government land and buildings, churches, bars and even some parts of airports. Under this act, guns are permitted in public parks, which, according to a 2019 legal ruling, makes it impossible for Live Nation to enforce a temporary gun ban in Piedmont Park for the duration of the festival. The cancellation of Music Midtown is more than an attack on college students who wanted to see Future; it’s a sign that conservative politics will kill Atlanta.
Firstly, the cancellation signals that gun ownership privileges in Georgia are expanding in dangerous ways. It should go without saying that firearms and music festivals are incompatible. A mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival killed more than 50 people in 2017. Yet banning guns at festivals is illegal under state law because gun owners are supposedly within their right to tote weapons in public parks and endanger other festival attendees. Despite the countless past tragedies in which people recklessly died at the hands of unbridled gun control, Republicans somehow still manage to champion guns over human lives in the name of freedom.
Culture is at risk of dying, too. The film and music scenes, which are part of what make Atlanta the culture capital of the South, are not immune from the repercussions of lax gun laws. The city is the center of the hip-hop music scene in the U.S. and boasts a growing indie-rock crowd. Entertainment brings an estimated $9.5 billion in revenue to the city, with Music Midtown alone garnering $50 million. Yet frighteningly loose gun laws like the “guns everywhere bill” may be the end of the city’s music scene.
Atlanta will risk losing more public music performances because it is near impossible for artists to ban guns in their crowds. The festivals Shaky Knees and ONEMusicfest, which are also held annually on public grounds, will presumably be the next to go. Perhaps concerts will also start to disappear. It is absurd to expect musicians to perform in front of a drunk, armed crowd, and unreasonable to assume that concertgoers will be comfortable attending events while guns run amok. Concerts and festivals are dangerous enough as it is; attendees risk being trampled, assaulted or suffocated by unruly crowds. Gov. Brian Kemp’s extreme gun agenda turns live music from an exhilarating event into a life-or-death experience.
Live music is only the tip of the iceberg; Music Midtown and the greater music industry might be the first, but not the last, victims of the Kemp era. The film industry will be next.
Film and TV producers love Atlanta thanks to generous tax credits, with the industry bringing the state $4.4 billion in revenue last year. Yet restrictive abortion laws, in addition to discriminatory voting laws and lax gun regulations are also beginning to drive film away. After Georgia’s fetal heartbeat law passed banning most abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Ca.) urged film companies to end production in Georgia, calling the new abortion laws a “cruel assault on essential rights.” The industry protested when the law first passed, and top producers and actors like Jason Bateman threatened to walk away from Atlanta if it was enacted. Well, it was. Now, it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood, and billions of dollars in revenue, begin to vacate the city — taking thousands of jobs with them.
Georgia Republicans are costing the state culture, tourism, jobs and revenue due to their radical agendas. The loss of Music Midtown is evidence of the growing disconnect between Democratic Atlanta and the GOP-controlled legislature. Despite Atlantans existing in a liberal oasis with 72.6% of Fulton County voting Democratic, residents are still negatively affected by conservative state laws. Beyond imperiling staples of city living, like going to concerts, the omnipresence of guns leads to increased gun death in the state. Homicide rates climb with each passing year, with deaths highest among young Black men and in low income Black and Native communities. Even Emory, in the wealthy Druid Hills bubble, isn’t immune from gun violence. A student with a gun prompted a lockdown on campus last May. A man was killed outside of a popular Buckhead bar last April. A man was shot at Emory Commons last month. When guns can be carried everywhere, blood spills everywhere.
Being repeatedly called to vote is exhausting. But nothing will change until Kemp is out of office. This November, we can vote Stacey Abrams into gubernatorial office and have a chance to change state laws. Abrams has centered guns in her race for governor, proposing to retract Georgia republicans’ loose gun laws. Perhaps she’ll finally bring the state up to speed with Atlanta, restoring abortion rights and tightening gun restrictions. Because in Atlanta, it isn’t safe to have fun anymore.
Sophia Peyser (25C) is from New York, New York.
Sophia Peyser (she/her) (25C) is from New York, majoring in Environmental Science and Creative Writing. Outside of the Wheel, she works as a content writer. Contact Peyser at email@example.com.