David Amad, a gun rights activist and the vice president of Open Carry Texas, is not especially bothered by Walmart’s recent announcement that it is “respectfully requesting” that customers not openly carry guns into its stores.

Mr. Amad said many of his group’s 38,000 members had carried their guns openly into Walmart stores since the retailer made the policy public last Tuesday. None have been asked to leave.

“They are ducking the issue,” Mr. Amad said of Walmart. “They are trying to get the gun haters to leave them alone, while at the same time leave us alone when we carry in their stores.”

Walmart’s announcement followed the shooting that killed 22 people at its store in El Paso last month, and it sparked similar actions by Kroger, CVS, Walgreens and the Wegmans grocery chain.

Gun control groups applauded the retailers’ moves, which one prominent advocacy group described in a news release last week as “open-carry prohibitions,” a view that was widely shared.

But none of the retailers have banned guns in their stores outright, even though legal experts say that is something they could do.

“It’s a private property,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “A retailer can refuse service to anyone so long as it is not on the basis of race, religion or another protected group. That does not apply to gun owners.”

In some places, where gun rights are paramount, retailers said they might have a hard time enforcing a ban because local officials might believe that open-carry rights superseded store policies.

Some of the retailers said their new policies were meant to strike a balance between signaling that guns make many employees and customers feel unsafe, while not angering gun rights supporters. The new policies appear to be achieving something that have been elusive in the nation’s long-running gun debate: some form of middle ground.

Gun control advocates praise the moves as progress in making open carry socially unacceptable. Gun rights advocates say they the retailers are doing nothing to restrict their ability to carry their firearms.

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CreditEmily Kask/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Walmart employees are instructed not to obstruct peaceful shoppers from openly carrying guns in the stores. In some stores, a Walmart spokesman said, employees are used to seeing some customers with guns during hunting season. But if an employee or customer feels unsafe, the store workers should call law enforcement.

The spokesman, Lorenzo Lopez, said he was unaware of any increase in customers’ openly carrying guns into stores or in confrontations with employees since the policy was made public. As part of that announcement, Walmart said it would no longer sell ammunition for military style rifles and handguns. It also called on Congress and the Trump administration to expand background checks and revive the debate over an assault rifle ban.

Representatives of CVS and Wegmans declined to discuss why the retailers had chosen not to ban open carry outright. Walgreens did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, Kroger said of its policy, “We believe this strikes the right balance between creating a friendly, caring and welcoming environment for associates and customers in our stores and respecting law-abiding citizens.”

More than 40 states allow open carry in some form, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, including in parts of the country, like the Northeast, not known as gun rights strongholds. Some states require special permits or that the weapon not be loaded, or restrict open-carry policies in dense urban areas.

As the nation’s largest retailer, with more than 4,000 stores serving a vast cross section of Americans, Walmart said it was advising workers to take a “nonconfrontational” approach with customers who wanted to carry their guns into its stores.

But the reality is that many Walmart stores have been the scene of violent crime, sometimes involving firearms. That could put store employees in the difficult position of trying to distinguish between troublemakers and law-abiding citizens with guns.

“No one, other than the police, should be able to carry guns in any Walmart store. Period,” Gabriela Navarette, a Walmart employee in Texas and a member of the labor group United for Respect, said in a statement.

The right to openly carry firearms has become contentious in recent years, notably when some activists made a point of taking guns with them into Starbucks and gun control advocates staged regular boycotts of the company.

In 2013, Starbucks became one of the first national chains to state a preference that its customers not openly carry their firearms into its stores.

“We believe that gun policy should be addressed by government and law enforcement — not by Starbucks and our store partners,” Howard Schultz, who was the company’s chairman and chief executive, wrote in a public letter at the time. He also chided both gun control and gun rights activists for fueling tensions at Starbucks stores to prove their point.

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CreditLisa Wiltse for The New York Times

Starbucks does not appear eager to revisit the issue. When asked how the open-carry policy has worked out, a company spokesman said, “We don’t have anything to share beyond the letter,” which was released six years ago.

A spokeswoman for Target, which asked that its customers not carry guns in its stores in 2014, also declined to comment on whether shoppers have abided by the request.

Some states have tried to make it difficult for retailers to restrict open-carry rights. In Texas, for example, retailers must post large signs in both English and Spanish, spelling out open-carry policies.

Several states prevent businesses from banning the possession of firearms in vehicles in store parking lots. Walmart said it had been researching state laws as it begins to enact its new open-carry policy, which in some stores will involve posting signs.

Gun control experts say the open-carry discouragements are not empty gestures. Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said several retailers had resisted her advocacy group’s previous requests to discourage open carry. That several major companies announced new policies at the same time is “an important cultural signal,” she said.

Not long ago, businesses were reluctant to say anything publicly that might be perceived as taking a side in the gun debate.

Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University’s school of public health who focuses on gun violence, compared the retailers’ discouragement of open carry to the choice by restaurants to prohibit smoking.

“It begins to make guns seem less socially acceptable,” Dr. Siegel said. “And it starts to change the public’s perception that the gun industry is too powerful to challenge. People used to say the same thing about Big Tobacco.”

Mr. Amad, the open-carry advocate in Texas, said that if he was ever asked to leave a Walmart while carrying his gun he would abide by the request. “We are not going to make a scene,” he said, adding that he, like many gun rights advocates, respects the rights of private property owners.

Instead, Mr. Amad said, he would plan on staging a protest on a public street near the store, but would probably never go so far as to boycott the retailer.

“I will never say I won’t go back to Walmart, because in some places out in the country Walmart is the only place to shop,” he said.

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