Obama seeks to allay fears: 'I actually don’t think we should ban handguns'

President Obama on Thursday sought to allay the fears of gun advocates by saying he’s not looking to ban handguns and would pursue controls that were “respectful of regional differences.”

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During a Google Plus “Fireside Hangout,” Obama was asked why he favored a ban on assault weapons, which account for only a small percentage of gun deaths, as opposed to handguns, which are responsible for the majority.

“I actually don’t think we should ban handguns,” Obama said. “But keep in mind what we’re trying to do is come up with a package that protects Second Amendment rights but also contributes to reduce violence.”

Obama said assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are “generally not used for hunting,” and that while banning them won’t “solve every problem,” it “can play a meaningful part” in reducing gun violence.

“When it comes to assault weapons ... my concern is, for example, in Aurora, when a young person can go into a theater and shoot off a hundred rounds in less than a minute,” Obama said. “These are weapons of war ... so for us to restrict some of those high-capacity magazines ... that probably can save some lives.”

The president acknowledged that there are “a lot of passions in these issues,” as well as divergences in opinion that exist between urban and rural areas.

“We’ve got to be respectful of regional differences,” he said.

Dozens of victims of gun violence attended the president’s State of the Union address on Tuesday in the House chamber, where Obama asked Congress to stage votes on proposals to expand background checks on gun purchases, ban assault weapons and prohibit high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Each of these proposals “deserves a vote” in Congress, Obama said repeatedly, to wild applause and standing ovations from his supporters.

“I think that people are going to be able to buy all kinds of guns and use them legally, Obama continued on Thursday. “What we’re saying is there may be a small category of weapons that we think can drastically increase instances of gun violence.”

“On balance, the second amendment does not automatically assume that any weapon that is available you can automatically purchase,” he said.