WAYZATA, Minn. - John Souter told reporters Thursday that her relives the shock and horror of the Accent Signage work place shooting nightly.
He's not ready to discuss thedetails of what happened during the work place shooting spree that left seven dead, including the attacker. But Souter, who was shot twice that day in September, did recount the first image he saw that gave him hope he'd survive.
"Coming around the corner I saw a police officer with a gun, and the words 'Minneapolis Police' just raised by spirit," Souter recalled, as he explained that he owed his life to first responders.
"I don't know how you have the courage to enter a building where there are bodies in front of you, and that's what they saw. They gave no thought for their safety."
Souter made his remarks during a press conference in the Minneapolis suburb of Wayzata. Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak convened the event to pressure 3rd District Congressman Erik Paulsen to support universal background checks.
"I know Erik Paulsen. He's a good person. He's not a bad person at all," Rybak said. "Individuals and politicians will have to look in themselves in the eye, another four, five, seven other tragedies later and ask themselves, 'Where were you? What did you do'?"
Rybak cited Star Tribune polling that found 70 percent of Minnesotans surveyed support universal background checks. Currently such checks are done for guns that are purchased from dealers who hold Federal Firearms Licenses.
Rybaksaidwhen it comes to the background checks issue he believes Rep. Paulsen is out of step with his own constituents, including Souter who lives in Wayzata.
Private gun transactions, including those between neighbors and those offered for sale by non-dealers at gun shows, are not covered by current background check requirements. Opponents says they fear that universal background checks will eventually lead to gun registration.
Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight,a long-timeproponent of tighter gun control, said opponents are attempting to cloud the discussion by raising other issues that aren't being considered in Congress or the Minnesota Legislature.
"This is about universal background checks," he said. "Not some people some time, not some people some where, but every gun every time."
Knight isthe former president of the Minnesota Police Chiefs Asssociation and the former chair of the Firearms Committee for the International Association of Police Chiefs.
Paulsen, a Republican serving his third term in Congress, represents a district made up of suburbs on the western edge of Minneapolis. He is considered by some pundits as a potential challenger to Senator Al Franken in 2014.
In response to media inquiries aboutMayor Rybak's press conference, Paulsen issued the following statement: "I continue to meet with law enforcement leaders, mental health professionals and others to find effective solutions to reduce gun violence, including fixing holes in the existing background check system."
Gun control advocatesface an uphill battle persuading the Republican-controlled U.S. House to pass universal background checks.
Rybak is part of a group known as Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which declared Thursday as "National Day to Demand Action" to end gun violence.
Souter is a scientist by training, who grew up in England and worked for two decades in the field of digital color imaging for 3M and Jostens before joining Accent Signage in 2006.
He was the director of operations at Accent, a company that specialized in Braille signage, at the time of the attack September 27.
Andrew Engeldinger, who had a history of untreated mental illness, opened fire after being told he was being terminated from his job operating an engraving machine at the Minneapolis plant.
Engeldinger shot Souter first, then fatally wounded five fellow employees and a UPS delivery worker before turning the gun on himself.
Accent employees Rami Cooks, Jacob Beneke, Ronald Edberg and company founder Reuven Rahamim died that day, along with UPS driver Keith Basinki. Accent employee Eric Rivers died two weeks later from his wounds.
Souter, who is still recovering from two gunshot wounds, took part in a federalgun violence round table in February. He said he wantedPresident Barack Obama to know how that type of violence affects survivors and the families of victims.
"It devastates. It humbles you. It humbles your family. It humbles everyone who's involved in this," Souter explained to reporters.
There's no evidence that Andrew Engeldinger skirted any of the existing gun laws acquiring his weapons and ammunition.He purchased his pistol legally at a Minneapolis gun store, and owned another one that he had bought legally through the internet.
But Souter asserted that any effort to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't own them is a matter of common sense.
"I grew up in a rural area in the United Kingdom. I was taught to use a shotgun at the age of 11. It was a natural thing, you know, people shoot rabbits, pheasants, things like that," Souter explained.
"It's not about the second amendment. People are making this about the second amendment, but it's not."