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Politicians Weigh In on Gun Laws Around Atlanta’s Midtown Fest Cancellation

Gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams claimed the festival's cancellation is proof that Gov. Brian Kemp's "reckless policies endanger Georgia's economy."

Political leaders are weighing in on Atlanta’s Music Midtown festival cancellation on Monday after event organizers announced the 2022 edition would no longer take place. Industry sources tell Billboard that the festival was forced to cancel due to recent changes to Georgia gun laws that prevent the festival from banning guns on to the publicly owned festival grounds like city-owned Piedmont Park, where Music Midtown is held.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams took to social media to express her concerns about the cancellation, calling the situation “shameful, but not surprising.” Abrams cited the loss of Music Midtown’s $50 million economic impact as a major concern and took aim at her political opponent and Georgia governor Brian Kemp.

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“Brian Kemp’s dangerous and extreme gun agenda endangers the lives of Georgians, and the cancellation of Music Midtown is proof that his reckless policies endanger Georgia’s economy as well,” Abrams said in the statement. “Rather than respond to increased gun violence by strengthening safety, he doubled down on weakened gun laws.”

In April, that Gov. Kemp signed legislation that made it legal for Georgia gun owners to carry a concealed handgun in public without a license from the state. The Live Nation-owned festival did not specify if the bill signed by Kemp or other recent gun-relaxing legislation in the state was the cause for Music Midtown’s cancellation. The festival released a statement on Aug. 1 reading, “due to circumstances beyond our control, Music Midtown will no longer be taking place this year.”

As Billboard previously reported, pro-gun rights groups had been emailing and posting comments of the festival’s social media page for several months, hinting at potential legal challenges from gun groups following a 2019 ruling that expanded a 2014 Georgia law that critics had dubbed the “Guns Everywhere” law. That law expanded gun carry rights on publicly owned land, like the city-owned Piedmont Park, although there was no legal consensus on whether or not the law applied to private events on city property, like Midtown Music.

Atlanta City Council president Doug Shipman has also expressed his concerns over the festival cancellation and what it could mean for upcoming events in Atlanta like Sweetwater 420 and Shaky Knees. Shipman told Rolling Stone, “I don’t know if it’s an unintended, or intended, consequence of the policy [that it could affect access to other local arts and culture events taking place on public property]. But I would hope that as we move into the next state legislative session in January, the state legislature looks at this and really thinks hard about, is this the kind of impact that we want to have? Or can we create a policy that has exemptions for large festivals and ticketed events?”

Shipman directed his concerns primarily on the economic impact of the festival – which a 2014 report by The Research Center at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce cited by Atlanta Business Chronicle estimated Music Midtown’s total economic impact to be nearly $50 million and an economic impact specific to the Atlanta area of $20 million annually. “We know people travel here from elsewhere and they don’t just come to the festival,” he said. “They come a day early, they stay a day late, they stay at hotels and do other things that create economic activity. So certainly, it’s tens of millions of dollars.”

Shipman continued: “If festival owners do not feel like they can safely conduct business in Atlanta, Shipman fears they will take their events to neighboring states. “We’re always competing with other cities not only for music, but more broadly for economic development.”