Craig Budnick says he tries not to take political shots personally.
But lately the first-term Stratford Councilman is finding it hard to brush off accusations that he and fellow Republicans "don't care about gun violence" in the wake of the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
"I can't stand the attacks on each other simply because of a letter next to our name," Budnick said at a Council meeting last week. "Yes, this is a necessary conversation."
The local debate on gun violence centers around a resolution passed by Council members in February.
Stephanie Philips, one of two Democrats on the 10-member Council, drafted the initial resolution and included in it language supporting proposals such as restricting large-capacity ammunition feeding devices and universal background checks.
But what passed was a version stripped of any mention of any specific policy on gun legislation.
It instead stated, in part: "State and federal officials must continue to look at ways to help prevent future tragedies, including but not limited to a review and responsible action on public policy regarding public health and safety."
Council Chairman Joseph Kubic (R-9) was quoted in the Stratford Star as saying, "It is not in [the Council's] power to enact gun laws. It is not my responsibility, it is not an appropriate place to have a discussion on gun control. They are doing that in Hartford and Washington."
Philips has countered, arguing that although a resolution does not carry any direct legislative weight, it can influence state laws which will ultimately impact municipalities.
Democratic Town Committee (DTC) Communications Chairman Neil Sherman took it a step further, saying it was "despicable" to deny the original resolution a spot on the agenda.
"It was commendable to create a resolution [offering our condolences] but they stripped all her language," Sherman said. "We are talking about protecting our children and innocent people in our community and the Town Council has a responsibility to cause the conversation."
Another DTC member, Adam Brill, speaking during public forum at last week's Council meeting, said: "It pains me ... I realize this is a tough issue but you have the power and responsibility to act."
Councilman Budnick -- responding to Sherman, Brill and an email caling on Democrats to gather and protest the revised resolution at the Council's meeting -- said he's "offended" by what he called "personal attacks" against some members of the Council.
"I feel like [Republicans are] being told we don't care about gun violence," he said during the Council meeting.
Budnick, calling himself a "moderate," said a conversation on gun violence and gun control is "necessary," but it has to be a fair one where all sides of the argument can be heard. He backed Councilwoman Philips's idea for a public forum that the entire Stratford community can attend.
Budnick also lauded a mentoring challenge program championed by Mayor John A. Harkins and his wife Jody, who also spoke during the public comment section of last week's meeting.
"That program would do more for future Adam Lanzas" than any resolution this Council could pass, Budnick said.