"I hope the CT GOP hears the message loud and clear,'' wrote Daria Novak, a businesswoman from Madison who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for the 2nd Congressional District in 2010 and 2012. "We support the Constitution and those who defend, not defile our rights!"

McKinney, whose district includes Newtown and who spent hours with grieving Sandy Hook families, said he understands the strong passions by people on both sides.

"I've heard from a lot of people on both sides,'' he said. "I've received a lot of phone calls and emails thanking me for my vote [and] for the way we handled the process in a bipartisan manner, not in a partisan shouting match. … I've also heard from people who disagree with my vote and their disagreements range from disappointment to anger.''

Labriola noted that the split over guns is not as much a partisan divide as a geographic one. "Our caucuses were split on the gun vote. ... Our rural members voted 'no' and our suburban members voted 'yes,''' he said. "Essentially members voted their district and that's how representative democracy works. It's not the role of the state chairman to take sides in such cases. It's my role to unite our party.''

Cafero, R-Norwalk, said there was never any doubt that the legislature would respond to the massacre at Sandy Hook. Right after the shootings, some Democrats were calling for new limits on the number of guns people could own, steep taxes on ammunition and a host of other proposals that many gun owners would have rejected. Republicans said their presence at the negotiating table helped stave off even stricter gun control measures.

"I felt I had an obligation to make sure there was a balance between the safety of the public ... and also the protection of the Second Amendment and law abiding gun owners," Cafero said. "Can you imagine had I, as one of the leading Republicans in the state, had said 'thanks but no thanks' and declined to participate? [I] would have appropriately been lambasted.

"We had to participate in that debate. To do otherwise would have been the death knell of the party,'' Cafero added. "I had to protect my brand. … It's not like in Washington, where one party has control of one house and one party controls the other.''

Scott Guilmartin, the co-chairman of the Republican town committee in rural Suffield, was among those who received Turner's letter. While he respects her right to express herself, he does not share her frustration.

"It's hard to find a candidate that you agree with on every single issue,'' Guilmartin said. "As a gun owner myself, I support stronger background checks, even though I don't they would have prevented Newtown."

But ultimately, Guilmartin and other Republicans say, they believe the deep divisions over gun policy within the Republican Party will melt away once the 2014 political season begins in earnest.

"I think economic issues will be the main focus by the time the election rolls around,'' he said. "I sure hope they will."