President Barack Obama has admitted that his failure to pass “common sense gun safety laws” in the US is the greatest frustration of his presidency.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Obama said it was “distressing” not to have made progress on the issue “even in the face of repeated mass killings”.
He vowed to keep trying, but the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel said the president did not sound very confident.
However, Mr Obama said race relations had improved during his presidency.
In a wide-ranging interview, President Obama also said:
- The UK must stay in the EU to have influence on the world stage
- He is confident the Iran nuclear deal will be passed by Congress
- Syria needs a political solution in order to defeat the Islamic State group
- He would speak “bluntly” against corruption and human rights violations in Kenya
- He would defend his advocacy of gay rights following protests in Kenya
- Despite racial tensions, the US is becoming more diverse and more tolerant
Mr Obama lands in Kenya later on Friday for his first visit since becoming president.
But with just 18 months left in power, he said gun control was the area where he has been “most frustrated and most stymied” since coming to power in 2009.
“If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands,” Mr Obama said.
“For us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing,” he added.
Mr Obama has pushed for stricter gun control throughout his presidency but has been unable to secure any significant changes to the laws.
After nine African-American churchgoers were killed in South Carolina in June, he admitted “politics in this town” meant there were few options available.
Analysis: Jon Sopel, BBC News, Washington
President Obama seemed very confident and very relaxed, as if he felt things were starting to go his way after some people had written off his presidency.
After the midterm elections, Mr Obama looked as if he was walking around with a very heavy weight on his back, feeling very frustrated.
But since then he’s had the diplomatic deal with Cuba, the nuclear agreement with Iran, an Asian trade deal and several other successes.
Suddenly, he has a spring in his step. He feels like he’s achieving quite a lot at the moment and he still has ambitions to achieve an awful lot more.
On race relations, Mr Obama said recent concerns around policing and mass incarcerations were “legitimate and deserve intense attention” but insisted progress had been made.
Children growing up during the eight years of his presidency “will have a different view of race relations in this country and what’s possible,” he said.
“There are going to be tensions that arise. But if you look at my daughters’ generation, they have an attitude about race that’s entirely different than even my generation.”
Talking about how he was feeling after his recent successes, he said “every president, every leader has strengths and weaknesses”.
“One of my strengths is I have a pretty even temperament. I don’t get too high when it’s high and I don’t get too low when it’s low,” he said.
Mr Obama was speaking to the BBC at the White House before departing for Kenya.
His father is Kenyan and the president is expected to meet relatives in Nairobi.
Mr Obama has faced criticism in the country after the US legalised gay marriage. However, in his interview, the president said he would not stop talking about the issue.
“I am not a fan of discrimination and bullying of anybody on the basis of race, on the basis of religion, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender,” he said.
The president also admitted that some African governments, including Kenya’s, needed to improve their records on human rights and democracy. However, he defended his decision to engage with and visit those governments.
“Well, they’re not ideal institutions. But what we found is, is that when we combined blunt talk with engagement, that gives us the best opportunity to influence and open up space for civil society.”
Mr Obama will become the first US president to address the African Union when he travels on to Ethiopia on Sunday.