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Atlanta Music Midtown festival can't ban weapons at Piedmont Park

The issue comes down to the difference between what's considered a public or private place.

ATLANTA — One of Atlanta's largest music celebrations, Music Midtown, was canceled on Monday under fairly vague circumstances. However, a possible reason for the cancelation that some are pointing to is Georgia's gun laws. 

The festival, which prohibits weapons "of any kind," conflicts with the state's gun laws.

Carrying weapons at a park in Georgia

Since 2008, it's been legal to carry a gun in Georgia's parks, so long as the gun owner had a permit. Georgia code, OCGA § 16-11-127 (c), states that the only places guns are prohibited are:

  • Government buildings
  • Courthouses
  • Jails and prisons
  • Places of worship
  • State mental health facilities
  • Areas in and around schools

According to an attorney and the Vice President of GA2A , John Monroe, it all comes down to public and private property. 

In 2014, GeorgiaCarry.org filed a lawsuit hoping to allow guns at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, and in 2019, a judge ruled against the organization. 

The Supreme Court of Georgia determined that the Gardens held a 50-year lease, which was considered an "estate for years" lease. Under the lease agreement, the garden can operate the publicly-owned land as private property and "exclude persons carrying firearms."

RELATED: Court rules on allowing guns in Atlanta Botanical Garden

Add now, one of the state's newest pieces of gun legislation -- the constitutional carry law -- allows any "statutorily authorized persons" to have a weapon  “in every location in this state.” 

Here's a look at how this law changed the landscape.

Constitutional Carry in Georgia 

"Constitutional carry," signed into law on April 12 by Governor Brian Kemp, makes it OK for anyone in Georgia to carry a firearm in public without a permit unless they're a convicted felon or have a mental illness.

The relatively new Georgia gun law creates sticky ground for public places that don't want guns brought on the property.

RELATED: Atlanta's 2022 Music Midtown festival canceled

State law previously required a license to carry firearms. People needed to fill out an application in probate court, undergo a background check and pay a fee no higher than $75.

Signed the same day as constitutional carry, H.B. 218 allows people out-of-state to tote their firearm in Georgia, so long as they are licensed to do so in their state.

Georgia's gun laws and Music Midtown

The lawyer who represented GeorgiaCarry.org said the same couldn't be said of the Music Midtown festival as the Atlanta Botanical Gardens

"If you're leasing public property on a short-term basis, like for a weekend festival or something like that, then you have to abide by the same rules that apply to the public entity," Monroe said. "So in the case of Piedmont Park, which is owned by the City of Atlanta, the city cannot ban guns there."

Monroe pointed out in 2016 that even on private property, it isn’t illegal for someone with a gun to see the sign and ignore it. It is only a crime if they don’t leave when asked. 

RELATED: Georgia legislature passes law eliminating need for permit to conceal and carry a gun

Organizers of the music festival have not confirmed that Georgia's gun laws were what canceled the festival but said "due to circumstances beyond our control," they would no longer be hosting the event. However, sources who work for the festival hosted by Live Nation told Rolling Stone that it was Georgia's gun laws that led to the event being canceled. 

"I don't really know if that is why Live Nation canceled Music Midtown, but certainly was their decision to do that," Monroe said. "They could have just followed state law and not banned guns." 

Lyndsie Duncan, a gun owner, had tickets to Music Midtown. She was disappointed to learn the event was canceled, possibly over a challenge about the weapon's ban.

"So, in all reality, I hate it. I love that people are free to carry a gun if they legally want to do so. But I don't think that they're acceptable at a concert."

Duncan said she's now trying to see if she can get a refund for her hotel through Booking.com. And should the festival return next year and allow weapons, she doesn't think she'll even bother with buying a ticket. 

"I don't know how I feel about going if I know that this person over here could be carrying, this person over here could be carrying and I don't know what kind of training they've had."

11Alive has contacted Music Midtown and Live Nation and asked if the decision to cancel the festival was connected to gun laws in Georgia. We are waiting to hear back.

   

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