Tuesday’s news pointed out that for years there had been no legal consensus on whether this law would also apply to private events on public property.
That changed with a 2019 Georgia Supreme Court ruling that made it harder for private groups to restrict guns at short-term events on public property. An appeals court upheld that decision earlier this year.
In light of those rulings, gun rights advocates had questioned whether Music Midtown had the legal authority to ban guns “of any kind” at the event, as festival promoters normally had.
According to the sources who spoke to reporters, the bottom line was that festival owners were concerned about the threat of lawsuits from gun owners if they tried to hold the event with a gun ban in place. There were also concerns some of the planned artists would refuse to perform if guns were allowed at the venue, a source said.
The next step, perhaps inevitable given the differing views, was the announcement in standard language, which spoke of the cancellation of the festival due to “circumstances beyond our control”.
The decision comes as a disappointment to tens of thousands of music fans who were expected to gather to hear performances from high-profile artists. About 50,000 people came to Music Midtown last year.
In some quarters, it’s probably tempting to dismiss the festival’s suspension as yet another example of “culture cancel” attempting to violate 2nd Amendment constitutional rights in an “awakened” way. This is particularly likely given that Georgia is an election year and guns are a popular topic for both political parties.
Perhaps a better and more objective way of judging this matter is to have a financial calculator in hand and look at it in a manner similar to that used by advocates of sports stadiums and similar public facilities.
At your leisure, detail what attendees would likely have spent at Music Midtown and what they would have flushed into local coffers before, during, and after performances. Call it the economic impact.
The amount is likely to be significant even without applying some sort of multiplier effect that’s common for these types of projections.
The sum is money that is now being spent elsewhere, maybe outside of Georgia.
It is also reasonable to conclude that news of the festival’s cancellation may give other organizations and individuals reason to reconsider their visits to or investments in Georgia.
Last but not least, there are several other major music festivals here that operate in a similar fashion, entertaining crowds by holding temporary private events on public land. If they decided to pull out of Atlanta as well, the loss would be significant in terms of both dollars lost and damage our reputation as the cultural capital of the south.
These influential decision-makers are also likely to be thinking about the new state law that will allow legally eligible Georgians to carry guns without going through the formalities of a background check and the other paperwork required to obtain a gun-carrying license.
Yes, the 2nd Amendment remains firmly the law of the country. We have pointed this out several times over the years on the editorial pages of this newspaper. Several of those editorials also mentioned the attorney for the late, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who observed in a landmark 2008 gun rights case, “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited.”
And the exercise of rights sometimes involves costs, as we have written before.
With that in mind, the loss of Music Midtown may not be the last such entry on the red page of our community’s tax book.
For a state that aspires to be seen as an A-list player in economic and cultural affairs nationally and globally, Georgia and its legislators need to honestly assess the potential cost of missed opportunities.
And they have to weigh up whether the relaxation of gun laws in recent years is worth that fee.
The editorial office.