When his son turned 14 a year ago, Jonathan Hardy bought the teen a gift that was both a coming-of-age badge and a hot item: an AR-15 rifle.
To Hardy, the matte-black weapon is not a dangerous assault rifle. His son's model shoots the same small, low-powered bullets used by youths for decades.
The allure of the AR-15 — the main gun used by the killer in Newtown — has nothing to do with the rifle's firepower, as far as Hardy is concerned. Rather, it's the gun's modular design, light weight, ease of use, low recoil and extraordinary flexibility that draws him in.
"It's the perfect rifle," said Hardy, a New Britain resident and certified firearms instructor who is...