Senate candidate backs away from her own claims she brought gun into Hinsdale Central
A Belleville Republican seeking her party's nomination for U.S. Senate backed away Thursday from statements she made claiming she brought a weapon into Hinsdale Central High School during an appearance Feb. 13 at a student-sponsored candidate forum.
Peggy Hubbard, a former police officer and IRS analyst, twice this week said she brought a gun and two or three ammunition clips into the school during an appearance with the four other GOP candidates.
"I walked in with a concealed carry and I had a gun and three clips and nobody checked," she told the audience at a forum Tuesday in Washington, Illinois.
In a social media post, she wrote she "walked in with a my weapon and 2 clips!"
But in a phone interview Thursday with the Daily Herald, Hubbard said that while she carried two ammunition magazines in her purse at the Hinsdale Central forum, she left her weapon in a lockbox in her car.
"I know what I said, and I was trying to get a rise out of people and I misspoke," Hubbard said. "And I apologize for that, but I did have two clips on me."
Hubbard said she originally claimed she had a gun because "I wanted people to know ... these kids are not safe in these schools, especially the well-to-do schools in affluent areas. They have a false sense of security."
Hinsdale High School District 86 officials said they have turned the matter over to police.
"First and foremost, if Mrs. Hubbard brought a firearm into the school as she claims, then she knowingly endangered the safety of our students and staff, and did so in violation of state and federal law. As a result, we have officially documented the incident with law enforcement," officials said in a statement released through Director of Communications Chris Jasculca.
On Thursday, Hinsdale Police Chief Brian King released a written statement that said his department was made aware of Hubbard's comments by district administrators.
"We are unable to corroborate the veracity of statements made through social media as to the type of identification she presented or whether she was in fact in possession of a concealed carry weapon. We have since learned that she has since backed away from her earlier claim.
"I have a very high level of confidence in the security protocols at Hinsdale Central High School. There is a Hinsdale police officer assigned to the school and the district utilizes the industry's best practices."
If Hubbard was carrying ammunition during the forum, she was not violating any laws as long as she has a valid FOID card, is not a felon and the ammunition was not explosive or armor-piercing, according to Paul Darrah, spokesman for the DuPage County state's attorney's office.
Hubbard said she presented her concealed carry permit to a school staff member when she arrived for the event.
But school officials say that after an internal investigation, which included an "extensive review of security camera footage and interviews with the staff, we were unable to confirm what form of photo identification Mrs. Hubbard's representatives presented on her behalf when she arrived at the building.
"What we can confirm, however, is that the type of ID that was used has no bearing on the fact that possession of a firearm and ammunition on school property by someone who has no authority to do so is illegal, not to mention dangerous and irresponsible."
Hubbard told the Daily Herald she handed a school employee her concealed carry card when she arrived "and she did not ask me one question about whether I had my firearm on me. ... She filled out my information and she didn't ask me any questions other than that."
Hubbard said she also raised the issue with a teacher and a security guard, and neither seemed concerned.
She criticized one of her opponents in the GOP primary, former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, who she said tells students they're safe in their schools.
She said suburban schools are far behind inner-city schools in dealing with possible gun violence because city schools "have pretty much security that would rival TSA."
"So telling (suburban) children ... that they're safe and don't have to worry about their schools being shot up and they don't have to worry about them being a target, that's the wrong thing to say to a child," she said. "They're not safe. Because if I'm asking questions and I'm asking in-depth questions about your policies and I give you a concealed carry card letting you know it's a likelihood that I have a weapon on me and you don't question that ... what else could I get inside that school?"
In their statement, district officials said they are "incredibly proud of the steps we have taken to improve safety and security across the district. These steps have included hiring security officers with a combined 233 years of experience in law enforcement, establishing fully equipped command centers at both of our high schools, installing more than 300 new security cameras in our buildings, and training students and staff on the use of ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) to handle the threat of an active shooter."
Officials said they understand the importance of assessing and evaluating security procedures and protocols and continue to make it a priority.
They also said they hope Hubbard's remarks don't overshadow the work of the Student Conservative Organization that sponsored the forum "or discourage any of our student groups from hosting similar events in the future."
Hubbard is in a five-way race for the GOP nomination for Senate that also features Curran, Casey Chlebek, Robert Marshall and Tom Tarter. The winner will advance to the November general election against incumbent Sen. Dick Durbin.