Wayne LaPierre survived a leadership challenge on Monday to remain in charge of the National Rifle Association. America marked the occasion with another school shooting, this time in a college classroom.

The two news events, seemingly only tangentially related, tell us much about the state of our nation. While LaPierre continues to raise millions by lying about supposed threats to the Second Amendment, our kids risk their lives going to grade school, high school and college.

On Tuesday, Riley Howell and dozens of his fellow students at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte had just started end-of-the-year presentations in their “Science, Technology & Society” class when a shooter entered the classroom. The details of the chaos remain sketchy, but four students were wounded and two, including Howell, were killed. Authorities say more would have died if Howell, 21, hadn’t sacrificed himself by tackling the shooter.

His girlfriend’s father, Kevin Westmoreland, told the Associated Press that he wasn’t surprised, adding that Howell was both athletic and compassionate. “If Lauren was with Riley, he would step in front of a train for her if he had to,” Westmoreland said. “I didn’t realize it might come to that for somebody else.”

America has long sent its youngest and strongest to risk their lives in foreign lands. Today’s young people have active-shooter drills at school. The NRA used to focus on hunting and gun safety. LaPierre and his crew turned it into a political powerhouse, spending membership dollars on lobbying and personal enrichment.

“United we stand,” LaPierre crowed on Monday. “The NRA board of directors, our leadership team and our more than 5 million members will come together as never before in support of our country’s constitutional freedoms.”

Meanwhile, Riley Howell’s family and friends mourn the loss of a courageous young man who died in a classroom — another innocent victim of American gun violence.

United we fail.

 

Editor’s note: This editorial is excerpted from Thursday’s edition of the daily Star Tribune Opinion e-mail newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, which highlights the best of editorial and commentary and notes from editorial page editor Scott Gillespie, go to http://bit.ly/OpinionNewsletter.