Savannah Jazz Festival denies firearms-ban policy after gun activist’s latest concern
By John Ruch
The gun activist whose complaints may have ended Music Midtown this year has stirred similar but incorrect concerns about the Savannah Jazz Festival banning firearms. The misfire nonetheless shows that gun rights activists remain on the lookout for unlawful weapons bans to test.
Held annually in Piedmont Park, Music Midtown was abruptly canceled by its promoters on Aug. 1 for unexplained reasons amid reports that state laws preventing it from banning guns were causing legal problems. Guns are allowed in public parks and short-term events like concerts cannot ban them — an issue raised about Music Midtown by activist Phil Evans earlier this year. His complaints also forced the removal of a similar ban at another public-park venue, the Home Depot Backyard outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
It remains unclear exactly how and why those laws — which are years old — would force the abrupt cancellation of an entire festival. Many concerts and festivals are staged successfully in public parks without explicit gun bans.
The Music Midtown cancellation set off a brief political debate about Georgia’s gun laws. But the effect on other concert festivals remains unclear and promoters and City officials have not responded to further questions. In public permitting processes for Atlanta’s Central Park, one major concert festival in the Old Fourth Ward’s Central Park may back out if firearms can’t be banned, while another is moving ahead. Another major festival, Shaky Knees, has deferred its permit review to November for unexplained reasons.
Meanwhile, concerns about the Savannah Jazz Festival were raised by Evans this month on GeorgiaPacking.org, an online forum for gun owners. The festival is scheduled for Sept. 20 to 24 at various venues that include the City’s historic Forsyth Park.
Evans pointed to a festival webpage that mentioned a firearm ban along with various COVID-19 safety protocols. Another user reported contacting the festival organizer and Savannah’s city manager and receiving word from the latter that his staff would investigate.
Evans told SaportaReport he also heard from another user that the Savannah Police Department (SPD) confirmed it would enforce a gun ban. The City and SPD did not respond to comment requests. SaportaReport also heard directly from a Savannah area gun-owner who wanted clarification, as he would find it more convenient to carry his firearm at the concerts rather than leaving it in his car.
However, the webpage that caused the concern could not be found directly on the festival’s homepage and appeared to refer to an earlier edition that, for pandemic safety, was held entirely indoors and live-streamed.
And that is indeed the case, according to Paula S. Fogarty, executive director of Savannah Jazz, the organization that stages the festival. She said that webpage — which has since been taken down — was outdated and should not have been accessible to the public anymore. And, she said, the festival has no gun policy, instead following all State and City rules. The gun ban at the pandemic version of the festival related to private studio facilities, where firearms can be legally banned.
Meanwhile, GeorgiaPacking.org hosts discussions on other gun bans that appear questionable, such as outdated regulations in metro Atlanta city parks. Evans says he has not complained about any other event for weapon bans. He was among the critics of a new ordinance in the City of South Fulton that prohibits handling a gun in a City park except for self-defense, leading a City Council member to make the legally questionable move of blocking him on Facebook.
Gotta have guns at music fests. Otherwise, how can you shoot people?Report