Once one year ends and a new begins, we become bombarded with lists of the top songs, movies, books, news stories, athletes, this, that, and the other. Often times, though, one common trend or topic is what is remembered years later. 2011 is often regarded as the year of the protester in lieu of the Arab Spring and Occupy movements. 2009 has been defined by the global economic crisis.
While history will have to determine what the past year will be most remembered for, there are a few significant topics that have stood out and could very well stand out as the most important story of 2012, at least from a Canadian standpoint.
Leading the charge, 2012 could very well be the year of the lone gunman. While every year brings about a significant mass shooting that draws media attention, this past year saw a startling amount of horror at the hands of an individual with a gun. In the United States alone, there were at least seventeen mass shootings in 2012, leaving more than ninety dead. The tenth shooting of the year, at a Colorado movie theatre screening The Dark Knight Rises that left twelve people dead, spawned a national debate in the media and public in the U.S. about gun control laws. Three weeks later, an Army veteran and white supremacist opened fire at a Sikh temple, killing six and then himself in Wisconsin. Then, just eleven days before Christmas, a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, left twenty-six dead, twenty of which were children. The last mass shooting took place in upstate New York, when a man intentionally set a fire luring emergency workers to the scene, where he opened fire and killed two firefighters.
Mass shootings weren’t limited to just the United States, either. In early June, the food court in Toronto’s Eaton Centre was the scene of a shooting that left one dead, seven injured, and the city in a state of shock. In British Columbia, a border guard was shot in her booth, before the gunman killed himself. The border guard survived.
While it is important to not overlook other shootings that have taken place in Canada, the United States, and globally, the surge in mass shootings in public places, often unprovoked or with unclear motives, dominated the news media and put the discussion of gun control in the minds and voices of citizens of Canada, the U.S., and the world over.
Meanwhile, there was another surge in random acts of violence that took place in 2012, though those acts all had one common denominator: bath salts. Having similar effects as cocaine, the crystallized drug became one of the biggest stories of 2012 after a string of bizarre, and in some cases brutal, incidents related to the drug. In Calgary, a twenty-one year old high on the drug fought with police, where he was “completely impervious to any sort of pain compliance techniques we might have been able to use on him,” according to Calgary Police Duty Inspector Paul Stacey in a report by the CBC. In another instance, again in Calgary, a young man smashed his face into a fence and allegedly tried to remove his own nose. In Toronto, the drug led a man on a rampage where he sent two police officers to the hospital with broken bones in their face, nose, and hand.