A nationwide ban on carrying firearms went into force in the Philippines Sunday ahead of the elections in May, amid debates on the need for stricter gun controls following a series of gun violence-related deaths.

The 150-day ban, which ends on June 12, is aimed at curbing violence during the election period in which some politicians hire private armies to threaten rivals.

The ban covers the carrying of firearms, the hiring of armed bodyguards by candidates and the transporting of arms, explosives, raw materials or parts, the Commission on Elections said, adding that they will set up checkpoints in every town and city in the country.

President Benigno Aquino was exempted from the gun ban despite earlier announcements from the election body that the president will be included under the ban because of a resolution stating which institutions could be exempted, such as the Presidential Security Group, AFP reports.

The President, a gun enthusiast, reportedly filed for exemption for a “small firearm”.

“The President, as commander-in-chief, is exempted. We just did not include that in the resolution because it is presumably a given. We can’t imagine the commander-in-chief of this country would have to ask for an exemption from us,” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said in a press conference.

There were 1.2 million registered firearms in the Philippines as of last year, with roughly 600,000 loose firearms, according to police data.