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A flare gun can be considered a firearm in CA, but generally it is not a firearm.
Here is an excerpt from a handbook of Firearm laws in CA, which was published by the California Attorney General:
A flaregun is any loaded or unloaded rocket, rocket propelled projectile launcher, or
similar device designed primarily for emergency or distress-signaling purposes. (Penal
Code § 12031.1.) Because a flaregun is not designed to be used as a weapon, generally it
is not considered a firearm as defined in Penal Code sections 12001(a) and (b). However,
the following prohibitions also apply to flareguns:
NOTE: Pursuant to Penal Code section 12031.1, a person may lawfully store a loaded or
unloaded flaregun aboard a vessel or aircraft. A person may also possess a loaded or
unloaded flaregun while in or traveling to and from a permitted hunting area, if the
individual is carrying a valid California hunting permit or license.
I hope this has been helpful. Please let me know if you need more information.