Why would someone own a military-style rifle?

Updated 10:43 AM EST, Fri December 21, 2012
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Story highlights

A military-style rifle was used in the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting

"Can't we leave those guns to the trained military?" asks a CNN commenter

Many gun owners collect them, using them for hunting, target shooting and protection

"A lot of people buy the AR-15 because, well, it's cool," says a former owner

Can there be a solution to America’s gun problems? Anderson Cooper looks at both sides of the debate in “Guns Under Fire: an AC360º Town Hall Special” Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on CNN.

CNN —  

One of the three guns Adam Lanza used to kill 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, was a military-style semiautomatic rifle known as an AR-15. That surprised and shocked a lot of people unfamiliar with America’s gun culture. They questioned why such weapons are available and why anyone would need them.

“Personally I don’t know how any ordinary citizen can justify owning an automatic or semiautomatic gun,” writes CNN commenter Mark Smerkanich. “Can’t we leave those guns to the trained military?”

Self-described gun owner Julie Jones-Hawkins comments, “I … fully support a ban on rapid-fire weapons. Any weapon that can take out an entire kindergarten class is a problem.”

Here are five reasons many gun owners say they want military style rifles:

’Some people play golf, others bowl. I shoot’

“Every month or so I take my guns out to the range and shoot. It’s thrilling, exciting and a great way to vent,” says Christopher L. Kirkman, a Florida-based military-style gun owner.