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'Puzzle' of Music Midtown return, unchanged Georgia gun law

The festival abruptly shut down last year, reportedly because state law protects gun owners who want to carry in Piedmont Park

ATLANTA — Music Midtown announced Tuesday its return to Piedmont Park in September. This, after an abrupt and never-fully-explained cancellation of the longtime Atlanta event last year – that was reportedly a byproduct of Georgia’s gun laws. 

Georgia’s gun laws haven’t changed appreciably in the year since the last Music Midtown was announced and then weeks later, abruptly canceled.

Though the politics are puzzling, the music is the draw.

"The people, the music, the atmosphere – it is just an outstanding event," said Michael Julian Bond, an Atlanta city councilman who is among those marking their September calendars for the return of Music Midtown.  

"I'm excited that they are bringing the festival back. Because I assume something happened that allows more security at Music Midtown," Bond said.

Organizers canceled last year’s festival just weeks before its start. They gave no public explanation, but, backstage, they reportedly expressed concern about a 2014 state law called the "safe carry protection act" or, derisively, the "guns everywhere" act. That measure requires public properties like Piedmont Park to allow legal gun owners to carry firearms – even at privately-run festivals with metal detector screenings.

Yet, in early May, a music festival called Shaky Knees launched in another Atlanta city park – with thousands of festivalgoers passing through metal detectors, which helped enforce a ban on firearms.

"That much is clear. If they are banning weapons, they are breaking the law," said John Monroe, an attorney for GA2A, a gun rights group.

He said Shaky Knees illegally banned weapons. Music Midtown has already posted rules banning weapons at this year’s festival.

"There are only civil remedies available. There are not criminal penalties," Monroe said.

He was unwilling to speculate whether GA2A would challenge Music Midtown's weapons ban in court.

With no change in the law, it is unclear to councilman Bond what has emboldened Music Midtown to make this year’s comeback.

"I don’t know what the workaround is," Bond admitted. "It’s like being at a magic show. Y'all just enjoy the show. You don’t necessarily need to know how the trick was done."

Live Nation, the Music Midtown promoter, has not responded to emails and text messages seeking an explanation.

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